CWT’s Patrick Andersen on his priorities for Power List: Travel Weekly

Powerhouse CWT, No. 5 on Travel Weekly’s 2021 Power List, recently appointed Patrick Andersen as CEO. He replaces Michelle McKinney Frimayer, who is stepping down from the role. Senior Editor Jamie Pesiada met with Andersen, CWT President and Commercial Director recently, to talk about his priorities, the future of corporate travel, and what the pandemic has changed forever.

Patrick Andersen

s: What are your top priorities as CEO?

a: My top three priorities as CEO revolve around customers, team, and delivery.

Concretely, in the next 100 days, this means that I will be spending a lot of time on the road, meeting our people, gaining customer feedback and seeing for myself what the new face of the business travel revival looks like for all of our stakeholders. CWT and the CWT team’s focus on the next phase of organic growth will also be a key priority, along with serving the needs of our customers and suppliers. Ensuring that investment plans in our products and technologies continue to provide the greatest number of choices and connectivity that our employees expect of us. Additionally, we ensure we are effectively refined for industry-leading customer service and focus. Led by a company with notable sustainability initiatives and efforts, I also plan to highlight my personal miss for sustainable travel.

s:With travel resuming, what have I learned from the pandemic?

a: Throughout our 150-year history, the biggest lesson we’ve learned over and over again is that no matter how volatile or unpredictable external factors may be, the travel industry is one of the first industries to rebound. As with any recovery journey, there are challenges for the industry to adapt to. Some of them are more urgent, from having to put in place robust infrastructure to manage the pressure of renewed travel recently, to how to better help travelers experiencing the increasing complexities of travel. Some are more out there than ever, such as ensuring that travel can be fully renewed but in a more sustainable way. There will be changes in all organizations after a pandemic, but the constant must always be ensuring that employees, customers and partners feel informed, supported and cared for throughout and after any storm.

s: What about the return of corporate travel? Will we reach pre-pandemic levels again?

a: The strength of pent-up demand for business travel is clear. We are seeing the highest levels of business travel since the pandemic began. Global transactions exceeded 50% of pre-pandemic volumes, a significant jump from 20% to 30% at the start of the year.

Removing testing and quarantine requirements has made a big difference. In countries where these restrictions have been relaxed or lifted, we have seen a significant increase in travel.

Online meetings have certain benefits, but they are not an ideal substitute for in-person interaction. It’s hard to keep people’s attention, form meaningful connections, and make people feel valued and stimulated in a virtual environment. Companies and business leaders understand the value of meeting face to face, so while it may take longer to return to 2019 levels, we are confident that business travel on the whole will fully recover.

s: How has business travel changed drastically, and are these changes permanent?

a: The pandemic as well as the current situation in Ukraine have been a reminder of the importance of risk management in corporate travel programmes. The increased focus on safety and security is likely to continue.

Sustainability is another area that is still increasingly important. Late last year, we surveyed our customers, and two in three said that sustainability goals have become more important since the pandemic.

Overall, we expect greater scrutiny of business trips in the future. Organizations will look more carefully at the impact different trips have, not only in terms of cost and revenue but also in terms of sustainability and employee well-being. Certain types of trips may disappear, and others may become more frequent, with adjustments to travel policies. It has become an important part of our role as TMC to help our clients find the right place among these sometimes conflicting goals and figure out what journeys are worth taking.

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