Business Travel Through the 1990s
To celebrate our upcoming 50th anniversary of GBTA Convention, today’s Throwback Thursday blog post takes a look at our association and the business travel industry through the 1990s. In 1991, the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) established the “Allied Member of the Year” award, recognizing Roger Solomon of Suburban Lodges of America as the first winner.
A few years later, in 1993, major airlines kept flip-flopping on whether to provide volume-based price breaks to corporate travel managers. Business Travel News reports some airlines required buyers to sign an NDA before negotiating air discounts with them. At that same time, NBTA’s hotel committee began simplifying the hotel bid process by developing standardized documents for corporations to use when requesting information and contract proposals.
1997 marked a milestone in the advancement of both the business travel industry and NBTA’s initiatives. In that year alone, American-based corporations spent $175 billion on business travel, including air travel, lodging, car rental, traveler support and administration – a huge leap from just $70 billion in spend in 1982.
NBTA established its research and education foundation entitled the Institute of Business Travel Management, which we refer to today as the GBTA Foundation. On top of that, the association voted to accept travel management companies as members for the first time in its history. Also in 1997, the Internet was just beginning to gain popularity, prompting NBTA to create its first-ever Internet Resource Center. In fact, the 30th annual NBTA Convention and Exhibition in Orlando featured a session called “Internet Resource Center: Introduction to the Internet”!
Towards the end of the decade, NBTA released its State of the Profession Report in 1998 to identify practices and trends in travel manager compensation and scope of responsibility. One of the key findings showed travel management salary levels continued to set new highs, increasing by an average of 30 percent over the past four years. Fuel costs also fell 18% for the year, saving carriers around $2 billion (BusinessWeek, February 1, 1999).
In February 1999, USA TODAY released an article highlighting the steep cost of flying at the last minute. Due to the hefty price tag, large corporations turned “to make direct deals with airlines including small low-fare carriers. The deals guarantee[d] that the companies [would] buy a certain number of tickets in return for a discounted price.” (USA TODAY, February 23, 1999).
About a month later, NBTA distributed a press release stating record-level business air fares were prompting American corporations to reduce air travel and pursue alternatives to offset fare increases. A survey of corporate travel managers revealed 76 percent of corporate travel programs had reduced the number of employees on business trips in 1999, an increase of 22 percent compared to the year prior.
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