The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

The Need for Automation in Travel

Artificial intelligence has become top of mind for the travel industry, with many companies now exploring the possibilities of AI-powered processes, workflows and communication. At GBTA Convention 2017, our all-new Innovation Row showcased a variety of startup technologies capitalizing on AI to alter the travel experience.  

One of our exhibitors, Mezi, is an AI-powered virtual assistant capable of booking flights and hotels for travelers, making reservations and more. Mezi VP Johnny Thorsen chatted with GBTA’s Caitlin Gomez and Travel Leaders Corporate’s Gabe Rizzi about the need for automation to accomplish personalization in business travel, and how Mezi achieves this.

View the full interview:


Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for further insights and Broadcast Studio interviews from GBTA Convention 2017.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Phocuswright again to highlight innovative startups at GBTA Convention 2018 in San Diego. Keep your eyes peeled for the incoming class of innovators!   

Week in Review

According to Reuters, the Supreme Court has agreed to decide the legality of Trump’s latest travel ban. The court is set to hear arguments in April and will issue a ruling by the end of June.

The UK experienced severe gusts and snow storms resulting in widespread travel disruption, power outages and school closures, The Guardian notes.

Following the derailment of a train in Washington last month, Amtrak has appointed an airline expert as its new safety chief, King 5 News reports.  

TravelDailyNews International shares findings from a report that claims U.S. hotel room construction is on the decline.

Airbnb is rolling out a feature called Pay Less Up Front that enables guests to split their payments, The Next Web reports. Guests can pay 50 percent of the bill upfront and pay the remainder just before check-in.

According to TechRepublic, consumer technology tradeshow CES revealed five trends that may have a massive impact on business travel this year.

In honor of our upcoming 50th annual Convention, this week’s Throwback Thursday post takes a comprehensive look at all of our Convention themes since 1996!

Tnooz notes fraud prevention in travel needs a different approach and shares tips for combating fraud and overcoming false declines.

According to SBS News, a Malaysia Airlines flight from Sydney made an emergency landing on Thursday due to “technical reasons”.

4Hoteliers shares the top ten US meeting trends for 2018.

American Airlines is adding Chicago O’Hare to its East Coast Shuttle service, USA TODAY notes.

According to Skift, United will begin giving passengers details about why their flights are delayed.

Hotelmarketing’com reports Italy’s Antitrust Authority has fined six online travel agencies over €4 million for unfair practices and violating consumer rights.

Leave Your Mark on the Industry

Staying updated on the latest trends is crucial any industry, but especially so in the ever-evolving business travel space.

In 2017, over 160 industry speakers presented informative and engaging education sessions at Convention, ranging from the evolution of technology in travel programs to balancing traveler satisfaction with program compliance. Out of the 70+ business travel education sessions we held last year, here are the top 10:

  1. Airline Sourcing:  It's More Than Contract Savings
  2. Tech Trends 2017
  3. Looking into 2018: Where Will Supplier Pricing Be?
  4. "The Hotel Procurement Game is Rigged" and How a Travel Manager Can Beat the Odds
  5. Five Forces that Will Change the Face of Travel and Travel Management
  6. Rapid Fire:  Future of Distribution
  7. The Evolution of Technology in Travel Programs: What You Need to Know to Be Prepared
  8. Tackling Traveler Satisfaction: True Stories From Travel Managers
  9. Balancing Traveler Satisfaction With Program Compliance
  10. The New Science of Influence

Education has long been one of the highest rated reasons to attend Convention, and in order to reflect the shifting needs of our attendees, we unveiled a big change to our education session format this year. All sessions from Monday to Wednesday will now be 30 minutes in length. We also introduced a few new topic areas, including artificial intelligence/machine learning, passenger facilitation, and hot topics.

If you have ever wanted to play an active role in shaping Convention, there’s no better way to do so than to submit a proposal and lead an education session. Our highest-rated presenters have often challenged conventional wisdom and are willing to share real lessons based on their life experiences.

We are accepting proposals for GBTA Convention 2018 now through Friday, February 2. For more information on submitting a proposal and presenting an education session, watch this webinar or head to the Convention website.

The Future of Meetings and Events

During GBTA Convention 2017 in Boston, we had a dedicated space on the Expo to highlight innovative startups impacting the business travel space. Startup Bizly, for example, has developed a platform that enables travel professionals and event planners to easily book small meetings spaces.

Bizly CEO Ron Shah stopped by our Broadcast Studio to discuss how his company aims to eliminate the request-for-proposal (RFP) process, as well as the biggest trends facing the meetings and events industry. Ron stressed the importance of face-to-face meetings and envisioned the future of the industry as simplified offerings, where the customer knows exactly what they’re going to get without all the frustrations associated with booking a space.

Watch the interview in full:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for further insights and Broadcast Studio interviews from GBTA Convention 2017.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Phocuswright again to highlight innovative startups at GBTA Convention 2018 in San Diego. Keep your eyes peeled for the incoming class of innovators!   

Convention Themes Through the Years

In 1968, the National Passenger Traffic Association was formed and subsequently began holding annual conferences across the United States, with the first being in Washington, D.C. Today, we prefer to go by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), and our reach has only expanded since then. A few decades and name changes later, we’re getting ready to host our 50th annual Convention in San Diego this August.

In honor of our event’s 50th anniversary, this week’s Throwback Thursday post takes a look at myriad Convention themes throughout the years. Our first known theme, Stepping Into the Future, dates back to our 28th annual Convention in Dallas in 1996, when GBTA was formerly known as the National Business Travel Association (NBTA).

Since then, the theme has been an integral part of the event, tying into the latest trends, changes and progressions in the business travel industry. Derived from the input of industry influencers, the process for selecting a theme begins the fall prior to Convention, and it can take up to three months to officially nail one down. 

Take a comprehensive look at our themes since 1996:

1996    Stepping into the Future – Dallas

1997    Gateway to Success – St. Louis

1998    Launching Into the Future – Orlando  

1999    Beyond the Expected – Minneapolis

2000    Destination Success: Your Ticket to the Future – Los Angeles

2001    Point of Departure: Rising to Meet Tomorrow – Atlanta

2002    New Frontiers: Worlds of Possibility – Salt Lake City

2003    Expanding Horizons: Dynamic Solutions for Success – Dallas

2004    Make the Connection – Orlando

2005    Charting the Course – San Diego

2006    Buy. Learn. Network. – Chicago  

2007    Discover. Innovate. Connect. – Boston

2008    Network. Learn. Buy. – Los Angeles

2009    Buy. Learn. Network. – San Diego

2010    New Economy. New Thinking. New Rules. – Houston

Spring 2011 – NBTA Becomes GBTA 

2011    Elevating the Business of Travel – Denver

2012    Success in Every Direction – Boston  

2013    No Boundaries – San Diego

2014    Business in Motion – Los Angeles

2015    #Sharing – Orlando

2016    Balance – Denver

2017    Convergence – Boston

2018    Momentum – San Diego

For our veteran members, can you recall any themes for Convention prior to 1996? If so, let us know in the comments section below!

Visit the GBTA Blog every Thursday for more throwback posts to celebrate the history of our industry and our Association as we prepare to celebrate 50 years of Convention. Share your Convention memories with us on Twitter using #TBT and tagging @GlobalBTA.

Improving Spend Visibility

For the first time in Convention history, the GBTA Convention 2017 Expo featured an Innovation Row dedicated to highlighting startup technologies impacting the business travel industry. One of the exhibiting companies, TravelBank, strives to modernize business travel for small businesses by automating expenses and predicting trip expenses before they occur.

At the GBTA Broadcast Studio, CEO Duke Chung spoke with Caitlin Gomez and Travel Leaders Corporate’s Gabe Rizzi about TravelBank’s vision of helping small businesses save money. Duke discussed how his company uses algorithms to offer an incentivization component, as well as provide visibility into spend before it occurs.

View the video in full:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for further insights and Broadcast Studio interviews from GBTA Convention 2017.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Phocuswright again to highlight innovative startups at GBTA Convention 2018 in San Diego. Keep your eyes peeled for the incoming class of innovators!   

Week in Review

The FAA now recognizes Alaska Airlines and Virgin America as one airline, signaled by the issuance of a single operating certificate, Business Traveller reports.

Bank of America analysts suggest the U.S. tax bill will increase corporate spending and, in turn, business travel, according to Business Traveller.  

Amsterdam is set to impose a 30-day annual limit on Airbnb-type rentals in order to combat the unintended consequences of tourism, Inquirer notes.

To the surprise of few, a new study from Columbia University reveals frequent business travel takes a toll on your mental health. Business Traveller notes frequent travelers are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than their more stationary counterparts.

Hilton is testing out innovative products for the hotel room of the future including a real-time translation earpiece, USA TODAY reports.  

According to TravelDailyNews International, the airlines of Lufthansa Group are altering how miles are assigned in their loyalty program Miles & More.  

Artificial intelligence has the potential to reinvent the way companies function, and Hotelmarketing’com shares four categories where AI will impact hotels in the coming years.

Business Traveller finds Delta has been named the world’s most punctual airline, boasting an on-time rating of 85.94 percent in 2017.

Emirates and Etihad have joined forces for airline security by agreeing to share information and intelligence with each other, The Economic Times reports.

According to CNET, European ride-sharing company Taxify launched in Sydney recently, bringing competition to the city’s transportation market.

Cathay Pacific introduced Business Plus in India, enabling travel professionals to manage employee bookings, assign and redeem points and more, Business Traveller notes.

The Independent finds Ryanair lost its spot as Europe’s biggest airline to Lufthansa due in part to a rostering error.  

Throughout Asia and Europe, high-speed rail services are giving airlines a run for their money. Bloomberg reports certain train routes are comparable to air travel in terms of price and speed.

The Early History of Aviation

As we continue our Throwback Thursday series, we take a look at the history of aviation and what its meant for business travel. While the names Orville and Wilber Wright jump to mind when you think of the beginning of aviation, it was Leonardo Da Vinci who is credited with some of the earliest studies of the possibility of flight. While he never constructed it, here is a drawing from 1490 of his plans for a “flying machine”.

In the late 1800s a German engineer who was fascinated with the idea of flight created a glider that could fly. Otto Lilienthal also published a book on aerodynamics that would inspire the Wright brothers and their designs.

Fast forward to 1903 just south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina at Kill Devil Hills, Orville and Wilber Wright took turns piloting the first-ever manned, heavier-than-air flight. The first attempt made it 120 feet in 12 seconds. The fourth and final flight of the day was able to cover 850 feet in 59 seconds.

Read about some of the lesser-known pioneers of aviation from the History Channel.

More interested in the actual planes? Check out these 16 historic airplane designs that changed the game for aviation from the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Magazine.

In 1914, the first scheduled airline service took flight in St. Petersburg, Florida. The 22-minute flight across the Bay from St. Petersburg to Tampa could hold just one passenger - or two small ones -  and flew just above the water. This might not seem like a major time-saver, but the alternatives included a 2-and-a-half-hour steamboat trip or a 12-hour train ride. The service only operated for a few months until the snowbirds left town following the winter and interest waned, but it was a start. Percival Elliot Fansler, the driving force behind the service said of it: “What was impossible yesterday is an accomplishment today, while tomorrow heralds the unbelievable.”

By the mid-1920s, the U.S. Post Office mail fleet was flying 2.5 million miles and delivering 14 million letters annually.

 In 1926, Congress passed the Air Commerce Act. This legislation put the government in the position to regulate commercial aviation and authorized the Secretary of Commerce to designate air routes, to develop air navigation systems, to license pilots and aircraft and to investigate accidents.

Many more advances would come in the nearly hundred years since the 1920s – stay tuned for another post on this. And, no doubt, new innovations we cannot even imagine yet are sure to come as well. The reality of flight had a truly remarkable and undeniable impact on business travel. It made the world smaller. It opened up new markets. Along with air travel, business travel took off.

Visit the GBTA Blog every Thursday for more throwback posts to celebrate the history of our industry and our Association as we prepare to celebrate 50 years of Convention. Share your Convention memories with us on twitter using #TBT and tagging @GlobalBTA.

The Impact of Augmented Reality on Travel

The rise of augmented reality, artificial intelligence and other innovative technologies certainly has the potential to alter the business travel landscape in the coming years. One of the companies at the forefront of the innovation revolution is Wagyo, and CEO Ryan Rogowski stopped by the GBTA Broadcast Studio at last year’s Convention to chat about the implications of these trends.

Ryan demonstrated augmented reality’s potential to alter the travel experience by explaining the concept behind Wagyo, an AR platform capable of instantly translating Chinese, Japanese and Korean text into English. Travelers who find themselves at a loss in a foreign city can use the offline app for real-time translations of street signs, menus, forms and receipts.

Watch the interview below:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for further insights and Broadcast Studio interviews from GBTA Convention 2017.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Phocuswright again to highlight innovative startups at GBTA Convention 2018 in San Diego. Stay on the lookout for the second installment of the Innovation Series!  

New Travel Ban in Full Effect

The following post is written by Wendy Stachowiak, VP Global Travel Partnerships, International SOS on behalf of the GBTA Risk Committee.

In early December, the Supreme Court ruled to allow the third version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to go into effect. This order enforces a policy against travelers entering the United States from mainly Muslim countries, including Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela. The restrictions for each country vary, but the majority is that citizens from these countries are unable to enter the United States permanently, including working, studying or vacations in the United States.

On December 22, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that President Trump’s travel ban violates the law, saying it “exceeds the scope of his delegated authority”. Despite the ruling, the fate of the travel ban ultimately lies in the hands of the Supreme Court.

The first order signed by President Trump in January was faced with many protests and legal challenges. A revised version was signed in March, making small changes like lifting the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. The third order was announced in late September and added North Korea and Venezuela. The Supreme Court allowed for the third order, overturning a temporary compromise that had been in place since June.

President Trump’s reasoning for the ban is that it is necessary for natural security, using examples of the recent terror attacks in Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Berlin. Many opponents have described this as a “Muslim ban”, calling it discriminatory and violating the “founding principles of this nation”.

The third version of the ban says that those eight specific countries were chosen because they “remain deficient at this time with respect to their identity-management and information-sharing capabilities, protocols, and practices. In some cases, these countries also have a significant terrorist presence within their territory”.

There will be states challenging this rule as there have been in the past. The Supreme Court’s order said the policy will take full effect despite the legal challenges ahead. If someone from any of the eight countries already have a visa or green card, they will be allowed to enter the United States, but those applying after the restrictions are in effect will face the stricter process.