Check-in with Suzanne

Ready for GBTA Convention 2022? Over 1,000 Travel Buyers Are

Hi Everyone – welcome to my first “Check-in with Suzanne” message!


In case you missed the announcement and last week’s intro video, I’m Suzanne Neufang, GBTA’s new CEO/Executive Director. I look forward to collaborating with all of you as we continue to work for a safe return to business travel and an even stronger, more inclusive GBTA.


First, I want to celebrate and thank Dave Hilfman, who jumped in to serve GBTA as interim executive director during such a challenging time. During his eight months at the helm, Dave led our Association’s efforts on pandemic recovery, including our 14-week Collaboratory 2020 webinar series, the introduction of the multi-dimensional “Ready. Safe. Travel.” campaign, advocacy efforts to ensure governments enact travel-friendly pandemic policies, and the moderation of many virtual meetings and events, all with his notable charm and often v-e-r-y early for his California time zone.


Dave, I know I speak for everyone when I say THANK YOU for inspiring us with your leadership, hard work and selfless dedication.


New Title, Strong Mission

I came up with “Check-in” as the title for this new weekly message in part because it refers to getting the industry back on the road again. After all, who among us wouldn’t be grateful to be checking in from those regular queues – at conferences, airlines, hotels, restaurants, car rentals and ride sharing – to know we’re back to “business travel normal?” (I challenge you NOT to complain when those queues happen again later this year 🙂 )


“Checking in” also means taking care of each other. Given the past 12+ months of uncertainty, there is no more important activity we can do every day with our family, friends and colleagues than checking in to make sure they’re OK.


I have heard from hundreds of you over the course of the past two weeks – checking in on me, the team, and our colleagues. I’d like to send a special shout-out here to acknowledge the thoughtful feedback, offers of support and good wishes these GBTA stakeholders sent to my new “2021” email from 8+ countries: Jens, Louise, Roman, Suzanne, Ruth, George, Gillian, Pascal, Christine, Kevin, Kim, Edward, Toni, Cindy, Paul, Deborah, Rex, Haley, Jerry and Gloria. Your words matter – and my staff and I are prioritizing your suggestions and areas we can do better.


Listening Tour

And speaking of checking in… As I said in my video last week, I’m starting out in my new role by listening to, and checking in with, you – our members, industry leaders, suppliers and sponsors. To cover as much ground as possible in my first 60 days, my terrific team at GBTA is setting up a series of regionally focused town halls where I can hear from you directly about your ideas and feedback. Please watch for the emailed invitation in the next couple of weeks.


COVID News to Know

Promising news continues on the COVID-19 vaccine front.


In the U.S., both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized for emergency use Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. This first one-shot vaccine will be easier to distribute because it can be stored in regular refrigerators.


In the U.K., more than 20 million people have gotten their first dose of a vaccine – either from Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech – constituting over one-third of the adult population.

With this successful start to vaccine distribution, England is set to begin lifting some lockdown aspects in phases, beginning on March 8, with schools and colleges reopening, and two people from different households allowed to meet outside for recreation.


In positive news from Israel, more than 50% of adults have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccine. Additionally, a recent study has found that among the part of the Israeli population that has been vaccinated the most, the percentage of patients requiring ventilation drastically dropped, suggesting the vaccine contributes to a reduction in severe sickness.


Recognizing our WINiT Trailblazers

Our second WINiT Awards & first-ever Virtual Gala is just around the corner on March 8 at 1 p.m. ET (6 p.m. GMT), where we’ll be honoring our Top 50 Women in Travel, announced last week. We’ll also be recognizing recipients of the Founders Award, Lifetime Achievement Award and Company Achievement Award, as well as presenting the Rising Female Leader, Best Mentor/Coach-Male and Female, Outstanding Women of the Year and Woman of Influence Awards. It’s the most global group of women we’ve ever brought together for industry recognition! I hope you’ll register to join me at this worthwhile event as we recognize our peers who are driving positive change for the career advancement of women in our industry.


GBTA is Awarding Thousands of Dollars in Scholarships

I’m thrilled to share news of our new GBTA global scholarship program, which is designed to help members receive important education and training during such a challenging time – with funding by a generous sponsor who wishes not to be identified. The application process is open to all GBTA members, and scholarship funds can be used towards several different GBTA Academy programs. To take advantage of this amazing opportunity, click here for the application instructions and further program details.


GBTA Convention 2021: Early Bird Registration Extended

Our GBTA staff is hard at work planning for our annual GBTA Convention in Orlando, Florida, July 17-21. I recognize there are still many post-pandemic unknowns that may be affecting your 2021 travel decisions; therefore, we are extending our reduced early bird registration rate for 60 days, until April 30. To take advantage of this reduced rate, click here to register. I’ll be there and I’m looking forward to meeting our outstanding members and partners!


Become a Ready. Safe. Travel. Specialist

As the next phase of our Ready. Safe. Travel. campaign, we’re offering a virtual, industry-wide workshop series for all levels of travel professionals to help transition business travel practices beyond the pandemic. This four-week series is open to both buyers and suppliers and begins on May 5. Upon completion of the program, participants will be designated a Ready. Safe. Travel. Specialist. Register for this valuable and affordable program by March 31 to take advantage of the discounted rate.


Update on Project Unite (ACTE Asset Integration)

The Project Unite working group, made up of Association volunteers, continues the work of successfully integrating ACTE assets with GBTA. At the end of January, we sent a survey to over 10,000 GBTA and ACTE members, event participants and interested parties to gather thoughts on what people valued most about the two Associations, what could be improved upon, and what we can do to create a stronger GBTA. We received more than 1,200 responses from around the world and the key findings were discussed with the Project Unite working group over two virtual meetings last month. This week, on March 3, we’re holding five regional meetings – Europe/UK, Latin America, Canada, U.S. and Asia/Australia/India – to gather additional feedback to help us prepare the roadmap for integration moving forward. I will continue to update you with further developments on this important work. Thank you to all of you who are contributing to this effort.


Regional Updates: Canada and Europe

Thank you to everyone who attended last week’s Canada Town Hall to dive into the Canada-focused results of our recent BTI™ Outlook and to hear GBTA’s regional plans for the year ahead. GBTA Europe’s turn is coming on March 16 when the Europe-focused results of the BTI™ Outlook will be discussed at the Europe Town Hall. Please register to attend this important session.


Mark your calendar for these important regional events coming up this fall:

  • September 20-21: GBTA Canada Conference 2021 in Toronto – Learn More
  • October 13-15: GBTA Conference 2021 in Wiesbaden, Germany – Learn More


As today I complete my first 5 days with GBTA, I want to say a special thank you for all the well wishes and pledges of support I’ve received. I’ll be counting on you as we work together to strengthen our Association and get our industry back on the road again. I look forward to hearing from you on the Listening Tour, and until then, feel free to email me at [email protected].


Have a good week – and don’t forget to check in with someone you haven’t heard from in a while.