Dave Hilfman’s Monday Memo to GBTA Members – Tuesday Edition

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Stepping in to lead GBTA has offered me loads of insight into what’s required for an Association like ours to be successful. Especially in such challenging times, we’ve tried hard to listen to our members, whether your feedback focuses on educational offerings, the need for the latest best-practices information or our advocacy efforts on behalf of a full recovery for business travel.

This weekly update is one example. You asked for better, more frequent updates about GBTA’s goings-on. That information is something I’m glad to provide at the beginning of each week.

Set Aside Time For Our Digital Summit on 2/17

Your needs also reside at the heart of our ongoing “Ready. Safe. Travel.” (RST) unity campaign, launched late last year to marshal forces around a safe and responsible restart to travel. The latest element of the RST campaign is set for this Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST. Our RST Summit, a three-hour digital event, will feature a trio of panel discussions with industry leaders and experts from around the world.

  • Hour One is “We are Ready!,” a “big picture” discussion with three medical professionals and featuring health and mobility experts exploring the challenges we face in achieving a safe return to travel.
  • Hour Two is “We are Safe!” featuring travel suppliers discussing new technologies, operations and protocols meant to ensure the safety of travelers and restore travel confidence.
  • Hour Three is “We can Travel!” with an international panel of global buyers sharing success stories, lingering questions, lessons learned, and insights on what comes next for business travel.

There’s still time to register for this free event, and we hope you’ll make it.

GBTA: No Mandatory Pre-Flight COVID Tests for U.S. Domestic Travel

Our members depend on GBTA to lobby and advocate effectively in Washington, Europe, Canada and elsewhere. With the Biden Administration and the new U.S. Congress in full swing, our North American advocacy efforts have focused on preventing mandatory pre-flight COVID testing for all domestic air travel.

Last week, GBTA signed on to a letter to the White House along with more than 20 other major industry players. This coalition explained that a proposed testing mandate is not scalable, feasible or effective. The group’s analysis received widespread media coverage, including via Politico and CNN. The part I found especially interesting: “Data published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that, of the 1.2 billion airline passengers who traveled since the beginning of 2020, only 44 cases of in-flight COVID-19 transmission have been reported. And the vast majority of cases occurred before face covering were universally required.”


Last Thursday, GBTA doubled down on this position via a press release that echoed the coalition’s science-based explanation for opposing mandatory testing.


The central theme: “Highlighting personal responsibility and personal accountability as opposed to blanket orders that are next to impossible to manage is how we as a nation will emerge from this time of devastating loss of life, mental stress and economic struggles. We strongly encourage the Biden administration to take a science-based, realistic approach and to not further cripple an industry that is fighting to stay in existence.”


We will continue to push to keep such a damaging mandate from becoming reality.


What’s Ahead: A Global Event Round-up


We have a slew of events upcoming on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It starts today with this month’s GBTA Europe Town Hall, set for 2 p.m. GMT. The digital event will look at the BTI Travel Outlook for Europe, presenting the economic forecast for the region and what that means for business travel. My sincere thanks again to our great sponsors at Enterprise for helping make this event possible.


You can also register now for our second WINiT Awards and Virtual Gala, set to be staged online this year. Having been involved with WINiT for years, I’m a strong believer in the many ways this network continues to elevate the careers of women across the travel sector. The March 8 event will honor the women, men, and organizations who have led the way in promoting what WINiT does so well.


We have two additional Town Halls set for the coming weeks: The year’s first GBTA Canada Town Hall will take place Feb 24, 2021 at 3 p.m. EST. We will hear from Mike McNaney, President and CEO of the National Airline Council of Canada, sharing the latest insights around Canadian travel and government activity. Also on the agenda: our latest research on the Canada-specific data included in the GBTA Business Travel Index.


The LATAM Town Hall is set for March 2. We’ll have details for you as that date gets closer. Registration is open now.


Conventionally Speaking


Finally, let me end with some decidedly positive news. You’re well aware that the GBTA Convention 2021 is set for Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center from July 17 to 21. Registration is already open (and those who register before March 1 can save money by registering early). But that’s not the only huge convention we have upcoming.


From October 13 to 15, we will also be holding our 2021 European Conference in partnership with VDR. This joint European Conference – to be held in Wiesbaden – will be the organizations’ first in-person European event since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Expect world-class offerings, an extremely safe event, and the chance for all of us to network, learn and advocate with one voice for the necessary recovery of business travel around the globe.


Catherine Logan, the regional vice president of GBTA Europe put it very well in our press release announcing the event. “This is great news for our industry and I’m delighted that VDR has reaffirmed their intent to partner once again for the GBTA-VDR European Conference. GBTA has introduced a number of significant changes over the past six months to ensure that we have an industry association fit for purpose with influence at a regional and global level. We have introduced international representation on the Board of Directors, with the appointment of the chairs of the Europe, LATAM and Canadian Advisory Boards; instigated a global review of the associations bylaws and the integration of ACTE; and the imminent conclusion of the inclusive and transparent search for the new Executive Director.”


I hope everyone has a great week. Can’t wait to connect with all of you digitally or in person in the very near future.