Meetings and events account for less than 10 percent of its North American business, but global business-travel giant Carlson Wagonlit Travel has been moving aggressively in recent years to build this segment, with signs of success already apparent.
Revenues from meetings and events increased 75 percent between 2008 and 2011 [in North America], says Tony Wagner, vice president, CWT Meetings & Events, North America. A core strategy for this growth has been “to aggressively acquire, maintain, and grow our talent,” he says, pointing to key industry players who joined CWT last year and to the expected completion this fall ofcertification by 30 members of the CWT meetings and event staff.
These include Kari Kesler Wendel, senior director, SMM program management and solutions. She leads CWT’s program management professionals who identify and implement strategies for improving clients’ meetings and events. She also leads the company’s meeting and events consulting practice through the CWT Solutions Group.
Wendel developed and managed strategic meetings and travel programs for Honeywell International, ING, and Xerox. She has served on the board of the Global Business Travel Association, helped develop the first professional certification in strategic meetings management, and is now involved with the development of another industry first: the SMM Maturity Model.
Angie Duncan, CMP, CMM, director, SMM operations, oversees daily operations for client SMM programs. Duncan came to CWT with more than 15 years of experience, most recently as vice president of VMS.
Wagner has seen “a significant desire among clients and in the marketplace, especially since 2009, to manage travel and meetings across the enterprise to reduce risk and realize cost efficiencies,” he says. “SMM is a trend in the industry, which is why we are investing in this area. Our significant growth and success in the meetings and events marketplace has validated this strategy.”
CWT’s new three-year plan calls for doubling its global and North American meetings and events business by 2015. Wagner sees growth coming in part from increasing the number of CWT transient-business clients that leverage the company for meeting and event services. “We really want to also maximize the benefits of our global presence for our meetings and events clients,” he adds.
“We want to be seen as consultants and thought-leaders, and that means putting together a talented team. This is essential. Customers will want to work with us.”