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Innovative Technologies, Data Security, and Diversity & Inclusion Were the Hot Topics of GBTA Conference 2019 – Toronto

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the voice of the global business travel industry, just wrapped up its 15th annual conference in Toronto. Innovative technologies, data security, and diversity and inclusion were among the hot topics discussed throughout the industry gathering. The conference saw record attendance with over 900 registrants including a sold-out Expo floor with more than 80 exhibitors.

Thought provoking industry panels and business-focused speakers highlighted Centre Stage. During The Power of Loyalty session, Efrem Berman, VP of Global Loyalty at Radisson Hotel Group, discussed the importance of companies leveraging loyalty programs to deliver an enhanced traveller experience. He explained why loyalty is a risk to travel buyers and how they can harness loyalty to drive program compliance. The Travel Messaging of the Future session featured Google’s Rob Lawson as he discussed the future of travel messaging and shared how major brands are already taking advantage of this technology.

GBTA Executive Director & COO Michael W. McCormick interviewed Air Canada President & CEO Calin Rovinescu. The two discussed how rising oil prices and macroeconomic factors like the global grounding of the Boeing 737 Max planes influence airline operations.

Also on Centre Stage, industry executives discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace in addition to how companies and individuals can combat systemic challenges. During the Titans of Travel session, Enterprise President & COO Chrissy Taylor, Best Western Hotels & Resorts SVP & CMO Dorothy Dowling, and Air Canada SVP Arielle Meloul-Wechsler shared their personal stories and obstacles they overcame to reach their current level, as well as advice on breaking through the glass ceiling. In another Centre Stage panel, executives from Cytelligence Inc., Best Western Hotels & Resorts, and WestJet talked through personal data in travel, where the risks are and how to mitigate them. The panelists all agreed, “Cybersecurity is a people problem that is enabled by technology.”

Featured keynote speakers included Ben Mulroney and Arlene Dickinson. Mulroney shared anecdotes and personal tales with delegates including why he doesn’t work in politics, his first gig in the entertainment industry and more. During the closing keynote session, Arlene Dickinson opened up about her personal journey sharing advice with attendees such as, “Money isn’t good for the things it can buy you. It’s good for the financial freedom it can get you.”

Brand new this year, WINiT by GBTA delivered a unique and interactive career development experience during the conference. FocusPoint International’s Maria Teresa Septien reviewed the importance of having an action plan while traveling and AthenaWise Strategic Solutions Founder & Principal Nancy Medoff presented a session on mastering persuasive communication techniques. Danièle Sauvageau, Canadian Olympic Gold Medal Winning Coach, delivered the luncheon keynote, leaving attendees with actionable insights and takeaways to incorporate into their work and life.

Also new this year, the Innovation Series put a spotlight on new startups breaking into the Canadian business travel market. During Centre Stage, innovators BagsAway and HelloGbye had the opportunity to pitch their company to a room full of business travel professionals and present their creative solutions to the industry’s biggest challenges.

Attendees also participated in high-level education sessions that covered issues like blockchain technology, the benefits of virtual payments and how machine learning and predictive analytics can improve a travel program, all designed to help travel buyers and suppliers learn about the latest industry trends.

Next year’s Conference will return to Toronto on May 26-28, 2020.

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