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A Welcome Reception: Is there a growing need for the management of non-employee travel?

February 25, 2022


By Joel Hanson
Sr. Director, Innovation Business Development, CWT

Nothing says ‘welcome to the company’ quite like being asked to pay for travel upfront and be reimbursed several months later. Kidding aside, for many years that’s been the status quo for a non-employee of a company, be they a consultant, influential journalist, intern, guest speaker or potential candidate.

Understandably so. Arranging and paying for business travel for non-employees can be an arduous and complicated task requiring manual intervention. Meanwhile, guest travel is only likely to increase as the pandemic has ushered in a renewed focus on types of travel and the question of who truly needs to travel. Additionally, the career landscape is changing in light of what some call ‘the great resignation.’ Freelance and multi-hyphenate careers are increasing, and there’s a growing trend of businesses hiring inspirational speakers, coaches and consultants to help train and retain staff.

CWT identified several years ago that guest travel was an important domain and has been at the forefront of helping shape the space. It’s important for several reasons. First, guest travel is sizable – for many clients, it represents north of 10% of all their transactions. Second, historically it has been rife with process inefficiencies. An HR recruiter wants to focus on getting the right person for the right role, not on the nitty gritty of flights and hotel bookings. Anything that smooths that process for them is welcomed. Third, this type of travel is often critical to a company’s success. First impressions matter. When a company flies a top-notch candidate to headquarters for an interview, it’s vital that the experience be smooth, enjoyable and hassle-free.

Pre-pandemic, we saw that the industry had a pain point around guest travel and then came up with a solution. CWT identified what was then a relatively small but promising start-up as a potential solution for guest services. We worked closely with them, integrating the offering into our infrastructure and bringing the solution to a number of clients in a relatively short period of time. CWT has an established and robust innovation process in concert with our Silicon Valley accelerator Plug and Play, and this was yet another example of being early to a space with forward-looking tech innovation partnerships. When we piloted the solution with a well-known global technology company in multiple markets around the world, the client loved it.

Later, when the start-up’s new owner decided to sunset guest services as a stand-alone product, we saw that as an opportunity to re-imagine guest services. We developed an in-house specialty care team that can support a wide range of guest travel types including recruits, relocations, health care professionals, board members, media, or others. What unifies these different traveler personas is that in all cases, the traveler typically requires extraordinary care. Clients value knowing that their travelers will be handled with that level of care.

The specialty care team also solves one of the primary challenges we had with our original model with the startup, which was that there was no way to speak to a live human agent.

Since then, we’ve helped hundreds of travelers across fifteen guest services clients, some of whom are in CWT’s large base of some of the biggest global tech companies that are growing at unprecedented rates and really value guest services for all their recruits.

Guest services is a critical example of a smart, strategic approach to travel in which it’s not just a question of spending more, or less, on travel but rather on the specific scenario. Specialty care in some ways is the future of travel, and CWT has been at the forefront of it for several years, with much more to come.


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