Check-in with Suzanne

Hi everyone – Time to check in!


Planet Earth passed another seasonal change over the weekend, with the March 20 equinox launching spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. It’s a good reminder to focus on how our global business travel community weathers “seasonal” change, up to and including the latest, most unusual 12 months.


Back in the ‘90s, our industry was heavily operations-minded – focusing on ticketing best practices and then online self-service that the new Internet made possible. Shortly after, in the aughts, travel agencies transformed into Travel Management Companies – as supplier commissions were restructured and new business models needed to be invented. Suppliers found themselves within a new leisure and corporate balancing act, many with their first ever direct connections to travelers via booking web sites, with a parallel rise of OTAs, and an ever-evolving effect of loyalty programs on travelers themselves.


The global recession of 2008-2010 found this industry focusing on demand management –  because struggling budgets were the focus in those uncertain times. And maybe you also remember some predicting the demise of business travel back then, when new, high-end videoconferencing systems could tout a near-real-life experience for people continents apart.


But business travel did come back – and soon faced new consumerization challenges (opportunities?) as publicly available tech and processes began to eclipse an old order of closed “corporate” systems. Offerings that drove better accessibility and user experiences continued through 2019, when business travel reached an all-time high of $1.43 Trillion globally.


And – cue the screeching of brakes – that’s how we find ourselves here. It’s late March 2021, and definitely a different season compared with 2019 – with business travel having dropped by 68% YOY.


But seasons follow a pattern – predictably – and what looks like autumn to some, is spring for others. The last year was devastating in travel, but a watershed year for human rights, as the world refocused its energy on diversity, equity and inclusion. (And GBTA launched a new committee to focus on DEI as our members also demand this focus.) And the health of Planet Earth came to the fore as many of our supplier and buyer member companies announced their own new goals for carbon-neutrality. (Our sustainability committee is now focused on these kinds of healthy planet initiatives.)


Now – we have to get our travelers and companies going again. Literally.


And as the industry comes back, we know we will come back better.


At GBTA, we just released the results of our latest COVID-19 monthly membership survey. And we’re hearing that you’re more optimistic than since the Pandemic began. 40% of our suppliers are seeing week-over-week increases in corporate travel. And nearly 90% of buyers see the safe return of business travel on the near horizon as vaccines become more plentiful.


As we head into recovery, it’s also good to remember to look around. Industry players – and professionals — who survived the seismic changes over the past two decades (or two years!) are not anything like who they were back then. The survivors changed not just with the economic and tech “seasons” – but also, and in particular, to meet end-traveler and corporate demands. The good got better, and they adapted.


And, as we balance today’s need to mitigate risk surrounding the pandemic, we must also now turn to focusing on the benefits which business travel brings to developing corporate culture, sales, and customer relationships – adapting what we know now with what we know must be possible tomorrow.


GBTA has been working hard this past year – first under Dave Hilfman’s leadership and now under mine – to make sure we are giving you the tools and perspectives to adapt quickly and become informed decision makers for the next inevitable set of changes thrust upon us and our industry.


It’s both spring and autumn for our members. Professionals in the business travel industry require the ability to consider many perspectives. I promise to work with you to drive the discussion around complex issues in our ever evolving global travel ecosystems.


Now, here’s what else is happening in our GBTA world…


News to Know


Pandemic Air Travel Continues Rebound, Hitting New Highs: The number of passengers at U.S. airports reached the busiest level in over a year last week, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration, making a steep increase from last spring as travel gradually recovers from a severe coronavirus-induced slump. Read more.


European Nations Resume Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine After Regulator Signs Off: The European Medicines Agency has ruled that the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective, despite concerns over possible side effects. The announcement March 18th comes after more than a dozen EU nations halted the use of the AstraZeneca shot after around 30 cases of blood clots. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and several other European nations now plan to resume use of the shot after the regulator’s OK. Read more.


HBR: The State of Globalization in 2021: Business trips comprised 13% of international travel before the pandemic, but play key roles in facilitating trade, investment, and the management of global corporations. Travel supporting companies’ external sales and business development agendas is expected to recover before travel for internal company meetings and participation in conferences and trade shows. This implies that managers in multinational corporations should pay special attention over the medium term how travel restrictions impact internal team functioning and learning and innovation. Remember that global teams are more vulnerable than domestic teams to misunderstandings and breakdowns of trust, especially after long periods without in-person contact. Read more in the Harvard Business Review.


After Bursting Once Before, New Canadian Atlantic Provinces Bubble Will Reopen April 19 in Time For Tourist Season: The bubble would remove checkpoints at provincial borders and allow travel within the Atlantic provinces without the self-isolation requirement that applies to travellers from elsewhere. Read more in National Post.


Qantas CEO: Governments Will “Insist” on Vaccines For International Travel: The CEO of Australian airline Qantas has told the BBC that “governments are going to insist” on vaccines for international travellers. Chief executive Alan Joyce said many governments were talking about vaccination as “a condition of entry” for such travel. Click here to read more.


GBTA News & Reminders


GBTA, Cornerstone Government Affairs Partner on National Security Roundtable: On March 30th, join aviation, security and political experts for an interactive conversation as they explore the policies and programs needed to regain the confidence of the traveling public. Speakers will share their unique perspectives on how the aviation industry will grow from the COVID-19 pandemic and capitalize on the innovative opportunities that await the industry, driving the future of a touchless travel experience. Get all the details and register here.


Chat With Suzanne Neufang, GBTA CEO Virtual Listening Tour Continues: Suzanne Neufang, GBTA’s new CEO, has been spending her first weeks on the job listening to our members, industry leaders, suppliers and sponsors. The events will give you an opportunity to interact with Suzanne directly and learn more about her vision for GBTA. Attendees can submit questions in advance of the meeting.


United States

US East Region Listening Tour

March 23 | 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST

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US Midwest Region Listening Tour

March 24 | 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST

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US West Region Listening Tour

March 25 | 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST

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Latin America

GBTA LATAM Town Hall / Listening Tour and Latest Results from the BTI™ Outlook

March 25 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM MEX

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Eastern Canada Listening Tour

March 29 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST

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Western Canada Listening Tour

March 31 | 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST

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TOMORROW, 3/24: GBTA Supplier Summit 2021: This year’s complimentary summit for existing and potential exhibitors and sponsors will be held virtually. Join industry peers as we share the needed planning tools for GBTA Convention 2021, including a virtual tour of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, new plans and protocols in place for safety, and more. Click here to register.


Please, do what you can to stay well and to take care of your loved ones and work colleagues. Together as an industry, we will come back better and stronger from this unprecedented challenge.