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How an old-school business travel powerhouse sees the industry’s future

@denschaal

Nov 30, 2012 1:16 am

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Watch out for those unruly and out-of-control unmanaged travel programs. Eve’s Adam was tempted, too.

— Dennis Schaal

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Like a patient who’s been comatose for at least a handful of years, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, considered to be the second largest travel management company in the world, has awoken from its slumber and discovered the importance of hotel reviews, social media, and the mobile revolution in the lives of business travelers.

And, oh yes, avatars will be important, too.

The platform for CWT’s epiphany is a just-released infographic on Business Travel Trends in 2013 From A to Z, with no letter in the alphabet getting short shrift.

The forecast undoubtedly popped into email inboxes yesterday around the globe with the stop-the-presses subject line, “CWT”s Business Travel Trends Predicts Technology Will Continue to Drive Change in 2013.”

Among its less-than-timely prognostications, CWT projects that hotel reviews “will improve the travel experience” next year, and “social reviews will hold more sway in the business travel program with the adoption of new corporate review sites.”

Is it merely a coincidence that CWT has just launched such corporate hotel-review sites?

In other insights, CWT believes in 2013 hybrid meetings, combing in-person face-offs with an online component, will take advantage of “social and other features offered by new technologies.”

OMG, perhaps these hybrid meetings across continents will include a tweet or two, or more likely could spur some “social reviews.”

And, perhaps feeling the heat from competitors such as Concur, which is advocating less cumbersome booking and expense-reporting options for road warriors, CWT has some advice for the latest new generation of travelers.

“Generation Y business travelers are by nature social, mobile and keen to manage their travel and expenses while on the go,” CWT states.

Yes, unlike other generations, they are social at birth, and expect to crunch receipts and expense reports from their smartphones and tablets. Perhaps Microsoft’s pending launch of its Surface tablet with full Windows capabilities has spurred awareness that mobile and business travel may be compatible.

But, above all, CWT advises, although not in these words, please maintain the business travel status quo. As CWT puts it:

“Unmanaged travel programs may tempt some companies with a low-control culture, but the real risks to employee safety, access to appropriate content and cost optimization must be carefully considered.”

Can you almost hear former first lady Nancy Reagan admonishing the youth of America, “Just Say No.”

This shot at unmanaged travel programs occurs as the Business Travel Coalition notes that the Global Business Travel Association is revisiting a study it published in May that “gives the impression there’s no savings in managing travel.”

“Based on a survey of 1,788 business travelers, the Global Business Traveler study found that while U.S. business travelers spend $2,740 on average per trip and stay 3.6 nights, ‘those under mandated programs spend more ($3,663) but stay a fewer number of nights (3.4), compared to those in unmanaged programs ($2,457, 3.9 nights).’”

Uh oh, trouble in paradise.

There are a lot of letters from A to Z, and you can picture the CWT writers getting stuck when they got to G, as they predicted for 2013: “Game techniques will become more popular as a way to reinforce compliance with the travel program.”

To be fair, there are some interesting points in CWT’s Business Travel Trends, but many of them, including warnings of continued economic uncertainty and the importance of ancillary fees, are just stating the obvious. Some of the aforementioned trends might have easily been written for 2009 or 2010.

Here’s one favorite: “New virtual agents or ‘avatars’ provided by airlines, airports and TMCs will assist travelers with booking, check-in and other questions.”

Hey Jenn at Alaska Airlines and Alex at United — you’ve finally arrived.

You can view CWT’s “Business Travel Trends in 2013″ below.

Download (PDF, 1.69MB)

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