We interviewed Fredrik Hermelin the Senior Director of Global Sales from CWT, a global Travel Management Company, on the topic of how meetings are booked by the customers and how is the Meetings and Events industry evolving.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what is CWT?
I work for the part of the business which is the Meetings and Events and I've been working on the project of online booking for small meetings for the last six years almost. Well as we are the big travel company, the Meetings and Events is just one of our core services. We have oil and gas resources and we have consultancy services and of course the big business travel. But Meetings and Events is today about 25% of our total turnover and one of the most important and fastest growing line of business that we have. And we are a company which is in between the customer and the suppliers.
What is the problem or issue you are trying to solve?
So what we are doing is that we are creating a value for our customers and doing that with meetings in advance. Meaning that we are bringing consistency, we're finding the right properties and we're giving them a value to the invested dollar. And today we have found a significant need to actually capture the transaction from our customers that are sliding outside of the scope. So our customers today are booking on the strategic programs but realises that almost 70% of their meeting spend goes into small transactions which is booked directly with hotels and therefore we cannot capture them, give them the data and the control and the compliance. So in order to bring that piece of service and quality to our customers transactions, we needed this online booking tool to really make sure that we capture all transactions in a package.
How did you resolve this issue?
Well the meetings business to us is the people's business so it's relationships very much in the meetings industry. However, as we see the needs of control, risk mitigation and data capture is rising with every large company we want to make sure that none of the transactions is sliding outside of that. Historically everything is offline.We are working people to people and we are managing a request and we are giving them equality, we give them excitement and creativity. But all those small day transactions that are going directly needs to be managed and having an online tool to capture that spend will save our customers a lot of time, it will save the hotels a lot of time and it will save us as CWT a lot of time so that we can use that in order to focus on the more complex transactions and give our customers an even better value. So in our world having an online complement to our offline traditional way of working is a win-win-win for all parties involved.
How did you partner up with MeetingPackage?
Well the tool itself, when we started to look at this back in 2016, we wanted to have something where our customers could find a venue or meeting space that they liked and maybe in a city that they weren't familiar with. So we needed to have some form of content database. We did this in every possible way with websites, and we collected hotels and we packaged it up. But MeetingPackage really came through with the solution of a true online search engine. You can find your venues, you can actually make a transaction or an inquiry. So MeetingPackage helped CWT to really move from the analog way of working to give our customers ability to search for the product they wanted and actually make a transaction. And that brings an enormous value to our customers today, specifically from our global, larger customers. In every RFP that we receive today, the online segment is part of the request. Every big company is looking at this today, and that is where MeetingPackage will fill that gap in our portfolio.
So what has been your experience of MeetingPackage collaboration?
I'm laughing! It's been a great ride. Who are MeetingPackage? A startup company from Finland, coming in with a great story and a solution that we all believed in. CWT were, wow, this is really something that made us take a couple of steps faster than we could ever imagine. And that was back in 2016 when everything was just starting up!
We had great hopes and with every new innovation that we had from CWT, from the TMC perspective, coming with our customers request, coming in with ideas that we never thought were going to come. MeetingPackage has been collaborative, really listening to the needs of our business model, but also listening to the complexity of our customers. And trust me, we had a lot of customers with complex requests. But the great thing is that the collaboration is a constant, ongoing process. And never, ever have I met a company actually who says yes more often than I do working as a sales director! And that is the energy that puts us forward. So I think we moved in a couple of years extremely fast in technology.
During the Pandemic, we had also more time to reflect and think about our ways of doing business, the way we do transactions, the needs that we have to maybe find office spaces, which is the latest piece of content. So MeetingPackage has helped us to think more open and more innovative in every way possible.
How do you see the future with Meetings & Events in CWT?
Talking about the future of where we are going, I actually strongly believe that we are writing the future right here in real time. And that might sound a little diffused. So let me explain that. Everybody is talking about the last missing piece of the puzzle to fulfil the Meetings and Events industry of services, we got everything else but the online transaction for smaller meetings.We have sourcing tools, we have offline, we have audio visuals, we have partnerships, we have great people. But the last piece missing here is the online transaction for meetings inventory. And every week we hear of development, new technology, new agreements between partners in this topic. And every customer we have today is talking about this. This is what we want. We want to have that control.
I think 2022 will be a great year for us to secure online transactions, direct connectivity, more qualitative content, a boosting number of venues coming into the systems, and probably we can connect multiple systems into one platform, hopefully to give our customers a variety of solutions and opportunities. So I think history is written right here, right now, as we speak. That is the most fascinating thing about it.
What is the key to succeed in the M&E sector in the future?
The users, I believe, is the key to success. What we have to do is we need to put something in front of the everyday user, the bookers, the secretaries, and the people who support the companies with meeting transactions. There is a skepticism today about booking something which is a little bit more costly than the normal airfare or the hotel room. Booking a meeting space for maybe €1500 or $2,500 might be a little bit more "Can I do this?" , "Do I need approval?", and "Is this safe?". So when we can get the mandate from our company's procurement department, mandating the ways of working and getting those bookers to feel confident in that transaction and also seeing the result of the value it gives, I say that when we get the users to say, I can do this, I think we will see a mass movement into this and it will definitely be a part of the everyday transaction in the big companies ahead. And also small companies, probably smaller companies are doing more transactions like this, but large companies are putting into policies and strategies, and that is where we are going to be successful. So, yes, the future is with online booking.
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