Q&A: Leading the Way

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What does your position as Vice-President for Global Partners Network entail, and what it is that you would like to achieve in this role?

I manage the independent partners who represent Carlson Wagonlit Travel in 112 countries by delivering travel management services to customers on CWT’s behalf. I plan to help grow some of the smaller independent companies that are limited in their operations and outreach, to become more aligned with the success of, for example, CWT South Africa, which has a full reach of service delivery in the local and international markets. Additionally, my responsibility is to grow the brand by identifying and establishing relationships with potential partners who would best represent the CWT brand. Ultimately, as an international travel company we aim to service a full range of customers, local and international, and provide customers with the best travel options available.

Regarding the global network of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, how have you found the South African travel market in comparison to the global travel market?

I would say that the South African travel market is relatively similar to that of the European travel market. South Africa, itself, is an advanced country in its development and activities in infrastructure, banking and telecoms, for example, and is a major representative of international companies. In this way, South Africa is no different from the likes of Austria or the Netherlands. South Africa is very comparable with a number of European markets.

Knowing that the arena of business travel is very competitive, what would you say makes CWT unique to the travel industry?

Carlson Wagonlit Travel is similar to any global player in the industry in its consistent delivery of quality travel management services to a large customer base. What makes us unique is that we have a global reach and a local footprint. We have a number of areas that we specialise in, such as our emergency and security services. We are able to track our travellers and provide them with emergency assistance within minutes. A good example of our emergency services would be that when the beautiful ash-cloud covered Europe, throwing all operations into a total mess, we were able to manage the needs of around 76 000 stranded clients whom we got home within days, thanks to the huge and complex system behind capturing travellers’ data and reporting data to our customers. In other areas, we specialise in and deliver safety management services to clients who have particular safety needs when travelling. We provide any means of protection necessary to ensure the safety of our customers who are travelling into potentially dangerous areas, and we are proud to say that we are one of the global leaders in this respect.  

What technology do you offer the travel industry that is unique to your company? 

We use two kinds of technology. First, we use onstage technology – technology that is visible to the traveller –such as online booking tools that are customised by experts and specialists and which are deployed across a number of countries. We also make use of technological tools to ensure service delivery, such as the intelligence itinerary synchronised with clients’ BlackBerrys that informs them of the latest route information, whether it be flight details, weather up-dates or security advice. Backstage technology – technology that is not visible to our clients– refers to the many service centres that deliver round-the-clock service.

Could you shed some insight on current global travel trends and how your company plans to follow these trends?

There are two areas that we pay close attention to. First, we follow the economy in detail to determine the areas of growth so that we may adapt the size and reach of our services. We use high-level analysis to ensure that we are in line with the current activities of our customers. Secondly, we follow the development of the way travel is now managed in the world, which is very much dependent on the airline carriers and the way high-spread rail, for example, is taking shape in a number of countries. Having many modes of transportation made available changes the way we service our customers. Having the ability to keep up with current and up-and-coming trends in the travel industry allows us to meet the travel needs of our clients in the best way possible.

Do you have any expansion plans for your footprint in Africa and South Africa?

We have operations in every African country except for Equatorial Guinea, Somalia and Chad. We have fantastic relationships with our organisations here in Africa and are proud to say that the South African operation is one of the top six most advanced partners of CWT.   

Seeing that the world is focused on contributing more positively to the environment, what is Carlson Wagonlit Travel doing to reduce the carbon footprint of business travellers?

We manage the green print of companies who do not have a programme in place to manage their carbon print by subcontracting to players in North America and other global players in Europe and other countries. We capture the carbon footprints of our travellers and provide them with information of the organisations that will compensate for their carbon footprint.

Any last words?

CWT is dedicated to helping companies of all sizes optimise their travel programmes and provide best-in-class service and assistance to travellers.