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« Why innovate? » A discussion with Vincent Lebunetel, Vice-President of Corporate Innovation at CWT

Why is the Travel industry undergoing major changes? What are the innovations that are disrupting incumbent players in the Travel industry? How are digital technologies transforming the Travel industry? These are some of the questions that came to my mind when I met with Vincent Lebunetel, Vice-President Corporate Innovation at Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT).

I/ Introduction of Vincent Lebunetel (@vLebunetel)

Vincent Lebutenel
Vincent Lebutenel

As Vice President of Corporate Innovation, Vincent Lebunetel is responsible for developing, overseeing and embedding an innovation management system and mindset across the global organization. To include the facilitation, ideation and realization of programs and initiatives that will create value for global customers & suppliers. Since joining CWT in 2009, Vincent has led the Solutions Group (CWT’s consulting business) in Europe, Africa and Middle East. Prior to joining CWT, Vincent worked for eight years for the Air France-KLM Group in China and France occupying successively positions in account management, sales and revenue management/pricing. Vincent is passionate about travel, innovation, sports in general and rugby in particular. He’s also and foremost the proud dad of a princess!

II/ Digital technologies are transforming the Travel industry

Our world is becoming increasingly digital, with travelers who intuitively make decisions on the flybased on access to continual information at their fingertips. All of this creates a whole new set of opportunities and challenges for managed travel. Digital technology is morphing value chains and changes the way value players interact with one another across the industry. Whilst Travel Management Companies (TMC) used to deal exclusively with corporates (Procurement, HR, Travel Management), the rise of consumerization has created traveler expectations for immediate and constant access to information in all parts of their lives – business travel included. As a consequence, all players in managed travel must evolve and reinvent ourselves to keep pace with rapidly changing technology and traveler expectations. Another example comes from the actors of the collaborative economy, who are also revolutionizing travel. Uber, Airbnb, BlaBlaCar have changed the way we get around in a city, changed the way we stay in foreign cities, and changed intercity travel. A lot of European countries are resorting to regulation in order to wall off innovation startups out of their local market.

  • Germany has passed legislation in order to minimize the threat that Uber is posing to traditional taxis.
  • The same is true in France. Nicolas Colin, co-founder of TheFamily, a Paris-based startup accelerator, wrote an eloquent albeit controversial article on this subject.

III/ Why innovate? Simply put, « companies that don’t innovate die », says Vincent.

Standard & Poor's
Standard & Poor’s : Average company lifespan on S&P 500 Index (in years)

Indeed, the lifespan of companies is shortening. 60 years ago the average lifespan of a company was somewhere between 70 to 75 years. But today, the most recent research shows that a company’s average lifespan is no more than 15 years.

source : Standard&Poor’s

As a consequence CWT is trying to adapt to this changing environment. And innovation is the means to do just that. Leading companies like Carlson Wagonlit Travel innovate because:

  • Innovation startups are profoundly changing the industry
  • Digital technology is reconfiguring value chains
  • CWT has experimented with innovation and found market traction
  • Innovation talent is near

In my follow-up conversation with Vincent, we talked about how to create an innovation role reporting directly to the Executive Committee. How should the innovation function be organized? What KPIs? How to get everybody onboard? Further Readings

  • For an article that reminds us innovation is the best way to acquire new clients, see here.
  • For a better look at Uber’s marketing potential, please refer here.
  • For an article about the art of corporate endurance, read this.

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