Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) is a global leader in business travel, meetings and events, serving clients in 150 countries. Vishal Sinha, the newly appointed CEO of CWT India, speaks about the USP of the company, which has more than 180 corporate clients in the country
What is your market USP in the competitive business travel segment in India?
While managed business travel in India is a fairly competitive and rather crowded space in a more transactional sense, what distinguishes CWT as a trusted business partner for corporates is the overall value that we brings to their corporate travel programmes. CWT has been leading the industry by developing innovative products and technology that not only bring convenience to the travellers and the agents, but also provide our clients with complete transparency over their travel spend. We recently embarked on a new strategy called “CWT 3.0”, with a focus on delivering a consumer-grade, omni-channel experience to the traveller, easy-to-use solutions for companies, and best-in-market hotel and data offerings. We have implemented our global products in India – the likes of CWT AnalytIQs (our business intelligence tool), CWT To Go (our mobile app) and CWT Portrait (our traveller profiling tool) amongst many others. At the same time, we have also deployed locally relevant technology available in the market to allow for the non-GDS content and the level of customisation that the Indian corporates look for. More recently, in April this year, CWT launched CWT For You, a state-of-the-art business travel solution specially designed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India.
What are your key growth strategies for this market?
India is expected to be one of the fastest growing business travel markets over the next five years, which is definitely exciting for us. What’s equally exciting is that this growth is likely to be driven by Indian companies and SMEs. These two segments present an enormous opportunity for us, since a large part of this market is still “unmanaged” in the true sense of a corporate travel programme. India has one of the largest proportion of millennial generation business travellers. Our mobile and self-booking tool offerings, as well as a 24×7 servicing environment, provide the “anytime, anywhere” support that this generation expects. Going forward, we believe that travellers will look for far more personalised solutions and services. With the large datamining capabilities that we already have in place, we are well-positioned to provide companies and travellers with personalised solutions that suit them best. We’re also working on ramping up our hotel offer by giving our clients around the globe access to more hotel content across all channels – online, offline and mobile.
Your views on the changing profile and preference of the Indian business traveller?
Millennials already comprise almost half of our clients’ travellers in India, and this number will continue to rise as more millennials enter the workforce. At the same time, while millennials are known to be tech-savvy, GenXers too have been embracing technology for business travel. When we look at the usage of online booking tools (OBTs) and mobile apps, GenXers have quickly caught up with millennials. It’s clear that technology – and mobile technology, in particular – has become a key area of focus in business travel.
Have you observed any interesting trends in terms of MICE travel?
While CWT India has entered a partnership to service the MICE needs of our corporate customers due to the special focus and expertise that it needs, we are observing that corporates are taking more “control” of their MICE spend. In the past, most corporates allowed the final users to manage their MICE needs themselves. Now, there is a trend towards managing this spend centrally through contractual relationships that are not necessarily event based, but span across all the MICE needs of the corporates (also referred to as Strategic Meetings Management). This not only allows for a more optimum spend management, but also the data capture that enables traveller tracking, safety, security and compliance.
What are the key focus areas of research for CWT in India?
Through the year, we conduct research into various aspects of business travel, as well as socio-economic or demographic trends that impact business travel directly or indirectly. Each year CWT publishes its annual price forecast across air and non-air products for all the key markets globally that allows the corporates to plan their travel spends better. In recent years we’ve also conducted and published research on areas such as traveller stress, bleisure travel, the sharing economy, and gender differences in booking business travel. Specifically in India, we have been focused on demographic trends given the increasing number of millennials and women in business travel, as well as the specific needs of small and medium businesses.