Buckle up folks, there’s a new chief in town and he’s about to shake up travel as we know it! Karen Bamford reports
The business travel industry could be accused of being insular, appointing usually only from within its own ranks. But when Andrew Jordan joined CWT as chief technology officer in April last year, he brought a wealth of new ideas and experience garnered in other industries – from the law to media.
Andrew says the type and extent of disruption that he saw in other industries simply hasn’t happened in business travel, but it’s an industry primed for change.
“To a large extent the commercial model that exists in this industry is the same as it’s always been,” he says. “OK the internet came along and the way people book has changed but largely where and how money is made stays the same.”
Have no doubt that Andrew will be leading the way. Highly driven, he has taken part in five Tour de France stages and this June will be riding in one of the toughest bike races in the world. The Race Across America will see Andrew and three colleagues covering over 3,000 miles in less than 10 days to raise money for EPPCAT, a charity that aims to prevent child trafficking.
Vision of the future
‘He’s not alone in his vision of the future of business travel. He has made other appointments from outside the industry and talks delightedly about one recent hire, a chief data scientist: “We still keep looking at each other and wondering why nobody has done anything.”
The explosive growth in mobile technology, a huge reliance on social media, and new ways to collaborate and share information have led people to expect experiences to be a certain grade, and for data to be relevant and targeted.
Andrew warns: “People are quick to discard things that don’t work for them. This will have a massive impact on travel. If you can’t deliver what people need they will go to get it somewhere else. If somebody is desperate to stay in a particular hotel or Airbnb and the policy doesn’t support it they will find a way around it.”
This might mean going outside programme, or even choosing to leave organisations in favour of working for companies that give them freedom to operate in ways that best suit them.
“The old way of managing policy, which is to lock everything down, is going to start to damage certain companies unless they are required to for reasons around regulations, like banks, for example,” says Andrew.
“You can use new techniques, particularly with data, to be much more precise around the effectiveness of policy.”
For example, a business isn’t performing well, so it bans travel for all employees – those that generate revenue and those that don’t. It’s essential to measure the impact of the travel ban on those two groups to know whether revenue is materially damaged through staff being unable to visit clients.
“You need to finesse the way that policy is managed, governed, presented and monitored – almost tending to real time – if you want to truly optimise the investment you put in,” he advises.
Data can tailor the mobile experience, making it more personal and sticky to the user. The traveller, who has historically been pushed aside, will start to behave in a particular way that will drive this personalisation.
A travel agent in your pocket
“The aspiration would be that they feel they have a personal travel agent in their pocket,” Andrew says.
Everything will become more seamless. We will have to think of the traveller, travel arranger, travel manager, supplier and TMC not as separate entities but as part of the same continuum, with information flowing between them. We need to move away from the idea of ring-fenced apps to a catalogue of features that you can access in any channel, so that the user gets the same experience whether using mobile, desktop or even calling CWT.
Andrew envisages a time when a traveller who goes to the same conference every year would be able to book it as a one-click service. They shouldn’t need to say which airline they want to use, or which hotel, or what time they want to fly.
He says: “We should be able to alert the traveller that the conference is coming up and this is the optimal time to book to get the best flight price and hotel availability. One click could repeat the same itinerary. This predictive behaviour is what people want now.”
Sounds great, but will it happen?
“There’s no reason technologically why we can’t do this. What’s more difficult is showing what value is returned as a result of doing it,” Andrew states, concluding: “You know when an experience works because you keep coming back to it.”