L'Association mondiale des voyages d'affaires (GBTA) – the voice of the global business travel industry – and German business travel buyer association, VDR – wrapped up their eighth successful joint regional conference in Europe this week. Hosted at the Square – Brussels Convention Centre, 8-10 November, the event brought together more than 800 attendees from 22 countries for insights, collaboration, networking, and education under GBTA’s guiding theme for the business travel industry of (Re)Connect, (Re)Imagine, (Re)Create.
“The Europe conference has always reflected the best of what GBTA delivers in community, learning and advocacy to help attendees, our members, and the industry continue to get back to travel and back to business. It is more important than ever that we come together to design new strategies to create an industry ready for the future requirements of companies, travellers, and the planet,” said Catherine Logan, Regional Vice President, EMEA, GBTA.
“We are pleased to meet outside of Germany for the first time since there has been a joint conference of our two associations. The decision to meet in Brussels, the political centre of Europe, illustrates the ambition of GBTA and VDR to stand up for common demands within Europe. The presentations and education sessions this year show that we all have to pull together, especially with regard to sustainability in the business travel industry,” said Hans-Ingo Biehl, Executive Director of VDR.
Insights with Experts, Dialogue with the Industry
In the event’s opening keynote, Herald Ruijters, Director for Investment, Innovative and Sustainable Transport – DG Mobility and Transport, outlined how the European Commission is building the foundation for a sustainable future for travel in Europe, specifically around smart mobility, passenger rights, and investment in infrastructure.
GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang then moderated a cross-industry executive panel of Chris Galanty, CEO Flight Centre Travel Group; Harry Hohmeister, Member of the Board Global Markets & Network, Lufthansa Group; and Charlie Sultan, President, Concur Travel, SAP Concur. The panel shared their reflections and forthcoming plans in exploring the opportunities and challenges for business travel in a post-pandemic world.
Another highlight was the popular, interactive facilitated workshop – “The Big Idea: Travel and The Law of Attraction” – where attendees debated and re-imagined what the travel industry can, and needs, to do better to retain and attract talent – from getting people back to travelling for business to joining the industry itself as a career. Breakout table discussions explored key factors such as diversity and inclusion, modern technologies, traveller well-being, and sustainability.
Learning and Connecting Leads the Way
Once again, this year’s education program represented a deep dive into topics poised to help attendees understand, navigate, and shape the industry’s future. Over 65 speakers and 18 highly curated education sessions were featured across topics such as sustainability; DE&I; travel risk management; strategic use of data; traveller care; digitalisation; the future of meetings and what’s ahead for payments.
Delegates enjoyed building in-person connections at the welcome reception, sponsored by TripStax and the “Big Night Out”, sponsored by Enterprise.
More than 40 leading supplier and partner companies showcased solutions, services, and offerings to attendees through dedicated exhibitor space and scheduled networking. Aligned with the event, nine industry companies announced their news, research, and industry firsts, while the GBTA Europe Broadcast Studio hosted 36 executive interviews from some of the leading and most innovative companies across the business travel eco-system.
New and noteworthy in 2022
For the first time, the event was hosted in Brussels, with attendees experiencing the city together during the morning running tour. New features for 2022 included a buyer-only networking breakfast and post-breakout ‘Talk to the Expert’ sessions in the exhibitor expo – both aimed at maximising the benefit of the in-person event.
The conference also honored the contribution of one of its leading volunteers in Europe. Stéphane Vallageas, Capgemini, was the recipient of this year’s Luoma Award, established in 2011 to recognize volunteers who support the development of GBTA and its local market partners in Europe.
For the first time, a GBTA Europe Lifetime Achievement Award was presented – to Lotten Fowler, General Manager of SBTA, the Swedish Business Travel Association. Lotten was a founding member of the GBTA Europe Partnership Council and played an integral role in the establishment of the association in Europe. She recently announced her intention to step down from her position next year.
The GBTA Europe Conference in partnership with VDR was made possible by several industry partners and sponsors including Cvent (Platinum); BCD Travel (Gold); Shell Aviation (Energy); SkyTeam, Visa (Main Stage); Cytric by Amadeus (Silver). Featured sponsors included American Express Global Business Travel, ATG Business Travel Management, Enterprise, Go Running Tours, Synergy, TripStax, Visit Brussels, and Hilton.
The event was preceded by GBTA’s first Global Sustainability Summit, held on the 8e of November in Brussels, focusing on “Driving Action to Net Zero Business Travel.” The Summit brought together nearly 300 experts, industry, and policy leaders to outline concrete solutions to decarbonise business travel, in alignment with the Paris Climate Goals.
In 2023, the GBTA Europe Conference will take place in Hamburg, 14-16 November.
Couldn’t attend the GBTA Europe Conference? Visit here for more details about on-demand Conference Plus. This option gives you virtual replay access through February 14, 2023, to six Main Stage recordings, Broadcast Studio interviews and 18 Education Sessions.