Skift Take

After a frank conversation with Carlson Wagonlit Travel CEO Kurt Ekert about the company's past shortcomings and goals for the future, we're more interested than ever before to see the new innovations developed to empower business travelers.

The Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter focused on the future of corporate travel, the big fault lines of disruption for travel managers and buyers, the innovations emerging from the sector, and the changing business traveler habits that are upending how corporate travel is packaged, bought, and sold.


The Future of Corporate + Business Travel

With corporate travel giants tending to be risk-averse, it’s telling that many companies are now touting technology innovation and traveler-centric products as core priorities moving forward.

Skift spoke with Carlson Wagonlit Travel CEO Kurt Ekert about the challenges of trying to move the company forward without giving up its core priorities.

“From a culture perspective, I think that historically we were not great at innovation,” said Ekert. We were great at service. And as I went around in my first couple of months in the organization and talked to a lot of our front-line employees and our customers, I heard a lot of what we needed to do.”

Ekert knows the travel technology space well; he was a longtime executive at Travelport and GTA before joining Carlson Wagonlit last year. The company’s chief goals are to develop a fully inclusive digital platform for travel bookings and smarter tools for hotel booking.

Competitors like Egencia and American Express Global Business Travel are also pursuing a heavy technology focus going forward, and it’ll be fascinating to see where the companies stand after a few years of this industry shift toward innovation.

— Andrew Sheivachman, Skift

Social Quote of the Day

When I used to envision business travel, I imagined being in the hotel pool, not looking at it through the meeting room window. — @imboande

Business of Buying

5 Essential Questions About IAG’s New Transatlantic Low-Cost Airline: Is Level a legitimate attempt by International Airlines Group to build a long-haul, low-cost carrier? Or is it a “fighting brand” designed to make Norwegian Air’s expansion more challenging? Time will tell. Read more at Skift

Alaska Air Won’t Have Flatbeds But Will Reward Frequent Flyers With Free Upgrades: Alaska’s frequent flyers should love this decision. No, they won’t get flatbed business class seats to New York, but they’ll keep plentiful free upgrades. For most road warriors, that’s a big deal. Read more at Skift

Meetings Industry Is Getting Savvier About Setting Prices: Better late than never. Sales teams for meetings and events are finally starting to use software to forecast demand and extract the most money possible. Read more at Skift

Safety + Security

Trump Travel Ban Block Is Extended Indefinitely: We are only two months into the new administration, but the cleanup to be done to the tourism industry already appears to be staggering. Read more at Skift

Etihad Will Offer Free iPads and Wi-Fi on Flights Affected by Electronics Ban: This is a smart move to ensure Etihad’s most valuable customers are able to stay connected on its lengthy flights direct to U.S. destinations. Read more at Skift

Brexit Briefing: What the Travel Industry Needs to Know: Much of the travel industry remains in denial about the risks of Brexit. As the countdown starts to the UK’s divorce from the EU in April 2019, here’s a recap of the best coverage on Skift. Read more at Skift

Disruption + Innovation

CWT’s Kurt Ekert on Making Life Better for Business Travelers: Better personalizing booking and travel tools for business travelers is something of a holy grail in corporate travel. Time will tell if Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s newfound focus on technology will be effective. Read more at Skift

The New Wave of Booking Tech That’s Disrupting How Airlines Sell Tickets: Airlines are using new channels, such as Facebook chat and other airlines’ websites, to sell their seats and other products. Some are turning to startups for help, rather than rely only on establishment vendors. Read more at Skift

Oasis CEO: Expect More Consolidation, Disruption From Alternative Accommodations: Will Oasis and other alternative accommodations players’ arguably steadier, slower, and more curated approaches to scale pay off in the long term? Or will the speed and scale of bigger players like Airbnb win out in the end? Read more at Skift


Skift editors Hannah Sampson [[email protected]] and Andrew Sheivachman [[email protected]] curate the Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Thursday.

Subscribe to Skift’s Free Corporate Travel Innovation Report


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Tags: carlson wagonlit travel, ctir

Photo credit: New corporate travel tools will make chores like rebooking flights easier for travelers. A passenger here uses automated kiosks from Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines

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