- IMD Business School
IMD Impact Stories · Economics - Strategy

TUI cultivates innovation at IMD

Tourism giant TUI boosts wearable tech at custom IMD program and reaps industry awards
February 2016

TUI is a German-based tourism giant. Founded in 1923, the now multinational company is active in over 130 countries, operating 300 hotels and resorts, 6 airlines, and nearly 2000 travel agencies.

Since 2012, TUI has been part of a custom Global Leadership Program with IMD that has served as an innovation lab for the company. The TUI/IMD program frees up key people from the company and gives them space and inspiration from IMD faculty to focus on new ideas that can boost and differentiate their business.

Breakthrough ideas

Recently TUI has making big waves and gaining accolades in the tourism industry and beyond with an idea that came to fruition in large part because of its innovation lab at IMD.

TUI has been piloting a new smart wristband called the Smart Band that gives its customers a smooth and hassle free vacation experience.

With the Smart Band, and an accompanying app, TUI customers open hotel room doors, turn on and off room electricity and heating to save energy, pay for meals and drinks, track their spending and a whole lot more, all without needing wallets or room keys.

TUI’s Smart Band uses a combination of Bluetooth Low Energy wireless radio, a Radio Frequency Identification chip and a replaceable battery.

Another of the advantages of the band is that it also allows the company to track customer experience and improve with their findings.

The Smart Band is considered a huge success by customers and TUI management alike. The project even won a Management Today innovation award.

It is expected to be rolled out to further parts of the business in the near future.

Space to think

John Boughton, Director of Mobile Strategy at TUI Group, heads up the team responsible for the new technology at the tour operator’s ‘mobility hub’ in London. He was recently at IMD for a session of the innovation lab program.

He said: “The program with IMD gives people head space out of the office and a break from the hectic nature of every day. When our people are at IMD and don’t have to think about reporting and politicking, they get their creative juices going.”

One of the features of IMD’s Global Leadership program with TUI is that a number of Alumni from previous sessions come to support and evaluate new ideas that flow from the meeting of minds. It also incorporates some key decision-makers from the company to insure that valuable new initiatives don’t fall flat due to lack of support.

“The program provides an arena to present our non-traditional ideas to top people and get buy in from a wide base, which is very important at such a big and complex company like ours. Interest from senior people in the business is critical to get new initiatives moving and the IMD program pushes that,” said Boughton.

Diving quickly into innovative thinking

Paul Anthony, currently Managing Director at Activities, a tourism company, was Director of IT and Strategic Projects at TUI when the Smart Band was being incepted. He agreed that TUI’s program with IMD provides a great environment to come up with and try new ideas.

“Being able to dive into innovative thinking at IMD in such a quick way without power points and without Boards was a valuable boost for our wearables project. IMD was very good at helping us decide which ideas were worth pursuing. I’m not sure the Smart Band would have seen the light of day if we didn’t have the feedback and creative energy from that program,” he said. “It really energized people.”

According to Jacky Simmonds, former Group HR Director at TUI, the program was set up to bring external prospective and academic rigor to senior leaders at the travel company.
Kenton Jarvis, Finance Director, Mainstream Sector at TUI said: “The program was fabulous for me. It’s great from a networking perspective since people come from all over, but it also helps us practically solve solutions that we’ve been struggling with as a business.”

Building trust

Albrecht Enders is Professor of Strategy and Innovation at IMD and directs the TUI Global Leadership program as well as the business school’s Advanced Management program.

“By bringing the current team together with Alumni and the company’s top team, we provide the space for excellent cooperation across the organization in our innovation hub,” said Enders.

“The TUI group shared new solutions with a larger part of the company and engaged in exchange. It helped them bring out new ideas and build trust. And that’s a great thing.”

Find out more about IMD Custom programs for organizations

Watch a video about IMD’s collaboration with TUI