Innovation and the Future of Business Travel Highlight GBTA’s 50th Anniversary of Convention

Attendance Approaches 7,000 With Record Buyer Turnout

Alexandria, VA (August 22, 2018) – The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) – the voice of the global business travel industry, wrapped up its 50th annual Convention last week in San Diego. GBTA celebrated its 50-year history while looking towards the future, as innovation and the future of business travel management were the predominant themes throughout the five-day industry gathering that brought together nearly 7,000 travel professionals and industry leaders.

GBTA held its first-ever Awareness 5K Run & Walk to raise awareness and funding to stop human trafficking on Sunday morning of Convention with more than 200 registered participants. GBTA continued to raise money throughout Convention, presenting a $20,000 check on Wednesday to benefit ECPAT-USA and its efforts to end child exploitation and trafficking.

GBTA made two key announcements during Convention including the merger of WINiT for Women into GBTA. Members of GBTA and WINiT will benefit through access to both organization’s programs, services and an expanded network of approximately 12,000 industry professionals, and the merger will allow GBTA to take WINiT’s mission worldwide. Additionally, leadership from GBTA and the Institute of Travel Management (ITM), the leading managed business travel association in the UK and Ireland, announced a joint venture that is part of a deeper, collaborative partnership between both associations kicking off with a London-based event for the managed travel and meetings sector on January 31, 2019.

GBTA Convention 2018 featured top industry leaders on Center Stage focused on business travel’s most pressing issues. As only the third person in 90 years to head the largest hotel company in the world, Marriott International President & CEO Arne Sorenson shared his outlook on the business travel industry, the shakeup over group commissions and the company’s home-sharing strategy in a one-on-one interview with GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick.

Dorothy Dowling, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Best Western Hotels, led a session of top female business travel executives sharing their insights on the unique challenges they faced as women arriving in leadership positions within their companies. Although their personal leadership journeys differed, their advice for women in the business travel industry coalesced around a few core themes: taking risks, thriving through failure and talking the talk.

Transportation Security Administrator (TSA) David Pekoske and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan took the stage together for the first-time in an interview with McCormick where the two highlighted technology’s potential to dramatically increase security and passenger facilitation. On the horizon, the two agencies are also planning to better integrate the PreCheck and Global Entry programs.

Kurt Ekert, CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, led a panel of experienced travel buyers in a shift from typical GBTA Convention Center Stage sessions, which often put a supplier on the hot seat. The discussion centered around the growing responsibilities for travel buyers and technology’s increasing role in travel management as buyers work to ensure duty of care responsibilities and cost-savings measures are in place, while also balancing individual traveler preferences and convenience. In today’s world of low unemployment, the panel emphasized the importance of their role in helping keep employees happy, saying travel buyers must work hand-in-hand with human resources to help increase employee retention and recruitment.

Center Stage wrapped up with Guy Langford, Deloitte’s Vice Chairman, U.S. Transportation, Hospitality, & Services Leader, asking a panel of executives covering various sectors of the business travel industry if bigger really is better, prompting a discussion of advantages and disadvantages of industry consolidation. Being bigger can help companies learn, negotiate better and innovate, the panelists said, as bigger companies often have advantages over smaller-sized companies to boost investments in marketing and new technology to meet consumers’ evolving expectations. Being larger can also create disadvantages, especially when growing through acquisition as you must understand how to assimilate and integrate diverse cultures and systems.

The keynote stage at Convention Arena featured Billie Jean King, Sports Icon, Social Justice Pioneer and Entrepreneur; Kevin O’Leary, Investor on ABC’s Shark Tank, Chairman of O’Shares ETF Investments Financial Group & Bestselling Author; and John Walsh, Victims’ Rights Advocate and Host of Discovery ID’s In Pursuit with John Walsh. Tuesday’s keynote also featured a special Face-Off with Kevin O’Leary where SpotHero for Business, TravelBank and Yapta each had the opportunity to pitch their company and business model in front of O’Leary and GBTA Convention attendees.

More than 170 education sessions took place giving travel professionals of all levels more opportunities than ever before for education to help them advance their careers and improve their travel programs. Topics covered the gamut of top travel industry issues including duty of care, technology and innovation, procurement, sustainability and so much more. Attendees can access all of these sessions and more with GBTA Convention 2018 On Demand.

The sold-out Expo Floor featuring well over 400 exhibitors showcased the latest and greatest in business travel products and services including the all-new Innovation Row. The Innovation Series in partnership with Phocuswright and Innovation Row returned for its second year featuring mostly first-time exhibitors who are looking to become the business travel industry’s most impactful innovators. Nearly 30 companies, including Virgin Atlantic, SAP Concur, CWT, Uber for Business and more, also participated in GBTA’s fourth annual media day sharing their breaking news announcements.

GBTA concluded the event with 6,755 attendees, including more than 1,350 buyers, making this the largest GBTA Convention in history and one of the largest gatherings of travel professionals in the world. Next year’s Convention will be in Chicago, Illinois on August 3-7, 2019.


About the Global Business Travel Association
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organization headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. GBTA’s 9,000-plus members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA and the GBTA Foundation deliver world-class education, events, research, advocacy and media to a growing global network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts. To learn how business travel drives lasting business growth, visit