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How a unified culture won CWT partner Orient Travel four awards in the Middle East

December 14, 2023

Orient travel team collecting awards

Household names in the airline, hotel, travel management and tourism space gathered for a glittering ceremony in Dubai in October for the World Travel Awards, an event dubbed ‘the industry Oscars.’

CWT partner Orient Travel took home four awards: Dubai's Leading Corporate Travel Company, The Middle East's Leading Corporate Travel Company, Fujairah’s Leading Travel Agency, and Orient Travel Group CEO Asim Arshad was awarded the Middle East's Leading Travel Personality. 

No other global travel management company offers its core products universally across its entire global partners network as CWT does enabling a distinct advantage for consistent customer experience, governance, innovation and real-time global data access. Richard Saunders, Vice President of CWT's Global Partners Network believes another factor is central to Orient Travel’s triple win. Its staff-centred culture plays a starring role in the company’s standing in the Middle East, beneficial to staff and clients alike. According to research by Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to business success. 

Here are three ways to build an award-winning culture:

People first

The staff at Orient Travel are well-versed in handling emergencies such as evacuations from conflict zones. A recent evacuation of employees of a major finance firm to the UAE saw them manage complex visa requirements, charter flights and onward bookings at short notice, “They worked for 6 days to support our team to pull off a miracle,” said the client, “There was always a solution, and if they didn’t find it in one place, they found it in another.”

Where there’s a motivated team there’s usually a great leader. Asim Arshad was awarded The Middle East's Leading Travel Personality after heading up The Orient Travel Group for 35 years. The group operates in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman and has been a CWT partner for ten years. 

“Working with in-country partners allows CWT to grow its footprint in partnership with local experts,” says Saunders, “it is critical that our partner’s values align with those of CWT, and it was very noticeable when we moved to working with Asim’s organization, that Orient Travel was different to other travel management companies in the Middle East. Asim is a super travel personality in the gulf and from our very first meetings back in 2013, it was clear that Asim has nurtured an environment where staff are motivated, empowered and dedicated to delighting the customer. The commitment to overall staff welfare which also extends to the families of the team, is unique in the region and very important when the vast majority are expats”.  

Asim takes an equally involved approach to client relationships, “He’s hands-on, spends time with our customers, and is uniquely happy to talk to customers directly,” adds Saunders. 

Prioritise employee wellbeing

 “Orient Travel has a welfare fund should anything happen to one of their staff which also extends to family members. With most employees originating from outside the Middle East, the fund enables emergency support to either repatriate the staff member to their home country to be with their family in an emergency or provide support for them. There are also parties and staff picnics which the team appreciate. It was quite unusual for an agency in the Middle East to work this way when we partnered ten years ago. I admired Orient Travel’s clear and defined positive company culture from the start,” says Saunders.

Employees naturally feel happier when they are valued, and employee wellbeing is increasingly important for companies when looking for a travel management solutions provider.

According to a recent Gallup poll a burned-out employee cost $3,400 out of every $10,000 in salary through disengaged and less productive work ​and disengaged teams endure a turnover rate up to 43% higher than engaged teams. 

To properly quantify traveller wellbeing and build traveller friendly programmes start by analyzing the right mix of data.

There is a significant contribution, or a detriment to business, when we think about the burnout that could arise from a less than optimal traveller programme as it relates to wellbeing.

As Einstein said, “not everything can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Find the winning combination with tangible staff initiatives combined with a program that priorities employee wellbeing on the road.” 

Build a purpose-driven culture 

From organising charter flights for evacuees of conflict zones to advising on carbon reduction, a purpose-driven partner performs well.

One of the most important components of building a strong culture is to help everyone on your team understand how their work impacts the world, how your team is critical to the success of the organization, and how their individual work is important to the people they serve. A people and purpose-focused approach coupled with prioritizing wellbeing leads to an award-winning business. 


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