The Business of Travel

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The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association


Making Expense Mobile

During GBTA Conference 2017 Frankfurt in partnership with VDR, Dan Fitzgerald of Traveldoo announced the launch of the company’s new mobile expense management app. Dan joined GBTA’s Mike McCormick at the Broadcast Studio to talk about the influence of B2C apps in the B2B world, and the importance of making things easier for the user.

He said they are seeing business travelers increasingly prefer a mobile experience for expense over a desktop one. Dan also discussed other industry trends and their impact on the industry, and left travel buyers with a piece of advice when it comes to choosing technology for their program.

View the full interview and hear his advice here:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s Europe Conference conducted in partnership with VDR.


Breaking News at GBTA Conference in Europe

During the late November GBTA Conference 2017 Frankfurt in partnership with VDR, a dozen suppliers announced breaking industry news at a special Media Cocktail hour preceding the event.

Amadeus tackled small meetings and event management by announcing the integration of HRS’ meetago solution with Amadeus cytric Travel & Expense to help corporations better manage their hotel programme.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel unveiled stats from its annual CWT Connected Traveler Study revealing Millennials are much more sociable than older business travelers, and are also most concerned about their personal safety.

Concur highlighted new research conducted in partnership with the GBTA Foundation on the impact of business traveller booking behaviour and duty of care. They also announced new TripLink live integrations, new partnerships, and as product innovations as well.

Europcar Germany announced it will now offer rental car bookings via voice-operated devices Amazon Echo and Echo Show, completely eliminating the need to log in to a website to reserve a rental car.

FCM Travel Solutions announced the launch of FCM Connect – its new suite of technology tools, in particular the new Seeqa online booking tool as well as an Update on launch of Sam - FCM's ground-breaking chatbot/AI based mobile app for business travellers - which is now live in the app store. FCM also announced its stand-alone operation in Germany is up an running with a new office in Berlin with capacity for 100 staff.

International SOS announced its Travel Risk Outlook for 2018 including a new Travel Risk Map.

Travel start-up JetClass announced it is opening private jet travel to the masses for the first time and reinventing the business class experience by enabling passengers to book seats on scheduled private jet flights across Europe for prices competing with business class tickets.

LOT Polish Airlines announced new routes for 2018 as well as the induction of new aircraft to its fleet in 2018, the B738MAX8 and B787-9.

Innovation Row exhibitor MagicStay announced the new version of Weezard, its apartment booking tool for travel managers.  The tool is available in SaaS mode, which allows for a travel policy, centralized payment management, workflow approval, and expense tracking.

The Marriott - Sheraton Offenbach Hotel announced the completion of an extensive modernization following a €3.2 million investment in the 221-room, four-star hotel to ensure it is prepared to meet the needs and challenges of tomorrow’s traveller.

Radius Travel announced the 2018 launch of its Radius Travel Meetings & Events, a division of Radius Travel that offers advanced, custom, and global meetings solutions. The new division will offer flexible global meetings solutions at every level, including strategic meetings management, end-to-end events, and specialized services.

Traveldoo announced a new mobile expense app designed to help to take the pain out of the expense re-claim process. Following extensive research and testing, the new app incorporates an engaging consumer-led look and feel, with greater automation for ease of use, quicker expense processing and reimbursement.


Bringing Innovation to Meetings & Events

Innovation Row exhibitor Nour Mouakke, Founder and CEO of Wizme, joined GBTA’s Mike McCormick at our Broadcast Studio in Frankfurt. Nour shared that his time in the hospitality industry inspired him to create this start-up as he saw outdated systems used for booking on the hotel side and buyers who lacked visibility into the process.

TechCrunch recently called Wizme the Open Table for meeting rooms. Hear Nour’s thoughts on this and what he hopes Wizme will bring to the business travel industry:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s Europe Conference conducted in partnership with VDR.


Don’t Risk a Holiday Season that is Memorable for the Wrong Reasons…!

The U.S. State Department recently issued a travel alert warning of a heightened terrorist threat in Europe during the holiday season. Increased security is to be anticipated in urban centers, airports, tourist locations and Christmas markets throughout Europe, including France, Belgium, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.  ISIS continues to publish aspirational threats against targets in Europe via social media with direct reference to the holiday season. While this alert currently expires on January 31, 2018, it serves today as a reminder of the importance of pre-trip education and preparedness.

Whether the holiday hustle and bustle has you traveling to tie up year-end business activities or to be present at fun family events, you must remember the importance of your personal safety and security!  Here are a few tips to keep in mind so that your holiday season stays safe and memorable for all the right reasons:

  1. Maintain a heightened sense of confidence and situational awareness. Always be alert to suspicious behavior and trust your intuition. 
  2. Travel in groups of two or more when you are able. Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return.
  3. Program emergency contact information into your mobile device so you have easy access to security and medical support, if needed.
  4. Keep your mobile phone charged and with you at all times.  Ensure the appropriate data plan is activated for your destination.
  5. Make two copies of your passport and other important identification documents (leave a copy of these documents at home or in the office with someone you trust).
  6. Pack valuables (e.g. laptops, cameras, jewelry, mobile devices) in carry-on luggage. Minimize the handling of this luggage by others and keep track of your valuables at all times.
  7. Use a privacy screen when using your laptop in any public space (e.g. hotel lobbies and airplanes). Use caution when downloading or clicking on any unknown links.
  8. Prepare your home appropriately while you are away.  If you have a security system, ensure that it is working properly and arrange for someone you trust to check on your home periodically.
  9. Refrain from posting details about your trip on social media until you return home.  This information can be exploited by others and highlights that your home is unoccupied, making it an easier target for burglary or other
  10. Watch the weather.  Not only can it impact your packing list, it can also cause delays or inconveniences that may impact your travel.

The Story of Team Erin and Andrew

The dreaded conference call – what some view as a miracle of modern technology, others view as the bane of their work existence. All etiquette seems to go out the door. Some people start zoning out, while others forget to hit mute, transporting you to a world full of fingers clattering across keyboards, children screaming, and myriad other background noises. And yet, the conference call was one of the essential elements leading to the success of this year’s winning GBTA Ladders team, Team Erin and Andrew.

Led by co-mentors Erin Wilk and Andrew Miller, the team consisted of five passionate leaders representing the airline, hospitality and ground transportation industries: Norman Gregory III, Kate King, Luther Shoultz, Christopher Thomas and Katharine Williams. The group had one main objective: prepare a presentation on an issue pertaining to the business travel industry for the chance to present at a GBTA Convention education session.

But let’s take a step back and delve into the program’s history. GBTA Ladders was founded in 2013 and to date, there have been hundreds of participants during the program’s four-year lifespan. The idea was to create a unique team mentor program that connects corporate travel leaders with industry newcomers to facilitate collaboration and mentorship. In addition to expanding their professional development within the industry and gaining skills to succeed in the modern business travel industry, members have the opportunity to walk away with life-long friends, like in the case of the winning team.

“Before Ladders the corporate travel industry did not have a mentorship program that spread across all verticals… I wanted to build a program that essentially allowed everyone in the industry regardless of their role the opportunity to build their network and develop their talent in the way that I have.” – Caitlin Gomez, founder of GBTA Ladders

Prior to the team’s formation, the two aspiring mentors (and former program mentees) had some convincing to do. Due to recent transitions into new roles and exceptionally demanding work schedules, Erin and Andrew feared they would be unable to make the Ladders experience worthwhile as individual mentors.

“The co-mentor idea was one we hatched up and presented to the Ladders leadership as a creative opportunity for us both to serve as mentors (versus not serving at all) and also an opportunity to test a new model.” – Erin Wilk, co-mentor

The program’s leaders took a risk when they agreed to the idea of having co-mentors, not knowing what the outcome would be. Needless to say, the new model far surpassed anyone’s expectations. The co-mentors and mentees succeeded in working together across different time zones and countries to support each other and achieve their project milestones.

“Finding a network of individuals who support and inspire is priceless.” – Christopher Thomas, mentee

Andrew also attributed their success as co-mentors to communication, emphasizing that they both made a conscious effort to over-communicate and make sure they were on the same page before relaying any information to the mentees.

When it came down to choosing a topic for the presentation, Erin and Andrew gave the mentees complete freedom and control. The only limitation was that their topic had to tie into the annual theme, which differs year-to-year based on industry trends. This year’s theme was centered around traveler centricity and the next evolution of travel management, and the winning team chose to focus their presentation on the promise of big data.   

“[Traveler centricity] touches all aspects of the travel industry, whether you’re on the airline side, the hotel side or the technology side. All major companies, in whatever sub-segment of the industry you’re in, are putting this renewed focus on making sure that the data that is taken into consideration hones back in on making the traveler first.” – Norman Gregory III, mentee

The idea behind big data analytics and traveler centricity is simple – determine what your travelers’ needs and wants are from a technology, policy and supplier perspective, and ensure your company’s travel program meets those desires. The quality of the business travel experience ultimately impacts overall job satisfaction and employee retention, among other factors. Tying into the idea of traveler centricity, a recent GBTA study revealed efforts to improve traveler well-being and satisfaction may also increase policy compliance. It goes without saying that embracing the traveler centricity trend benefits travelers and their organizations alike.

Team Erin and Andrew only met in person once a year. Instead, they set aside the first Friday of every month to hop on a conference call, ensuring they communicated on a monthly basis. Kate explained, “Our mentors helped by establishing a consistent format where everyone had a chance to speak on every topic on our calls.” As an added benefit, the mentees had the opportunity to interact with various senior executives throughout the industry and gain additional insights into the ever-changing business travel landscape.

“[Our mentors] took the bull by the horn and made sure that even though we couldn’t see each other, we would definitely interact in a way that would make us be comfortable with each other. We actually still meet now, even though the mentee program ended.” – Luther Shoultz, mentee

In addition to the monthly conference call, there were countless one-off calls and emails to further discuss specific aspects of the project. Following months of diligent work, it was finally time to showcase their presentation, albeit in webinar form. A total of 20 teams delivered presentations through a series of webinars, after which the Task Force Leadership team selected four finalists to present at the annual GBTA Ladders Conference in May.

In San Francisco, the team presented once more among the three other finalists. Shortly after, conference attendees were given the chance to vote for the final winner, awarding Team Erin and Andrew the ultimate opportunity to present at a GBTA Convention education session.

If there is a common thread among the team members, it is their genuine enthusiasm and passion for both the business travel industry and their involvement in the Ladders program. Paired with fervent dedication, countless hours of hard work and expertise from all sides of the industry, the end result is an unstoppable team.

 “The connections between the teams that I had both this year and last are connections I’ve maintained and I can see maintaining for the foreseeable future... It’s been really neat to meet so many like-minded, driven, talented young professionals.” – Katharine Williams, mentee


Week in Review

A federal appeals court in California allowed the Trump administration’s third travel ban to go into partial effecton Monday, NPR reports. The government may now bar foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the country if they have no ties to the United States.

In other policy news, Business Traveller reports Trump has banned independent travel to Cuba and prohibits citizens from staying at hotels and restaurants with connections to the Cuban military. As a result, multiple U.S. airlines are curtailing or abandoning their Cuba flights.

Chicago has become the first U.S. city to mandate “panic buttons” for hotel staff, according to Business Traveller. The pendant-style devices are designed to protect housekeepers from sexually aggressive guests.

According to Buying Business Travelhome-sharing platform Airbnb acquired Accomable, a service that helps disabled travelers find accessible accommodation.

Also on the acquisition front, TravelDailyNews International reports Summit Hotel Properties plans on acquiring four hotels for $164 million.

This Thanksgiving holiday will be the busiest season in the past 12 yearsBoston Business Journal notes. AAA predicts nearly 51 million Americans will travel for Thanksgiving this year.

Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific will be rolling out in-flight Wi-Fi across all its wide-body fleet of aircraftBusiness Traveller reports.

According to ReutersAirbnb put an automatic rental cap on its properties within central Paris, forcing hosts to comply with France’s 120-day yearly limit on short-term rentals.

Ride-sharing app Lyft is set to enter Canada as its first foreign marketSkift reports.

Buying Business Travel notes low-cost carrier Easyjet introduced a new baggage policy.

According to BloombergEmirates unveiled its upgraded first-class cabins on Sunday. The new cabins are fully enclosed and “inspired by Mercedes-Benz.”

Heathrow’s Plaza Premium lounges now accept mobile payments via AlipayBuying Business Travel reports.

4Hoteliers notes Marriott is introducing mobile check-in for over 300 hotels across Asia Pacific.

According to USA TODAYFour Seasons introduced a chat program that allows guests to text hotel employees any time before, during or after their stay.


DOT Launches Forces to Flyer Initiative

Today, the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, announced a new initiative to support military veterans as they prepare for careers as airline pilots. Forces to Flyers is a three-year program aimed at helping our veterans receive the training they need to become certified as new commercial pilots, preserving and increasing air service to rural and small communities, and assisting veterans in finding employment.

The United States is facing a pilot shortage. This is not a problem that can be solved by simply hiring. Safety and training are of paramount importance. The Forces to Flyers Initiative leverages an experienced and trained workforce, our nation’s military veterans, to help them transition into careers as airline pilots. It provides a unique job training opportunity for our nation’s veterans and addresses our nation’s pilot shortage.

GBTA strongly supports this initiative to help address the pilot shortage and continue to facilitate air travel for business and leisure travelers alike. Air travel is vital to business travel as corporations send their travelers on more than 40 million trips a month – most of which include air travel. Keeping business travelers in the air is vital to the U.S. economy.


Coming Soon: A New gbta.org

As many of you already know, GBTA is unveiling a new and improved website this winter. We asked what you wanted to improve your user experience – and we got the message loud and clear! We decided to have a little fun with this project and have staff and Board members read aloud some of the issues with our current site on camera – Mean Tweets style – a la Jimmy Kimmel.

And there was more input…

We heard you and cannot wait for you to experience our new site later this winter. The all-new digital platform would not have been possible without your input. It will be easy to use, mobile-friendly, streamlined and most importantly, make searching for information simple.

With its new features, gbta.org will be an even stronger support system for buyers, suppliers and all visitors to the platform. The new platform is just the beginning, so please keep your continued honest feedback and suggestions coming.

We cannot wait to share this true team effort with you all very soon. Stay tuned for future updates!


Active Shooter Situation: A Look at How to Respond

The recent Las Vegas attack, where at least 59 people died and more than 500 others were injured by an active gunman on the 32nd floor of a hotel, has re-ignited the thought in everyone’s mind around active shooter preparedness and the best way to respond in emergency situations. The definition of an active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.

As the shooting from the Las Vegas hotel began, some people initially thought the gunfire was actually the sound of fireworks going off. Others ran or took cover, jumping over fences and hiding behind walls to attempt to flee and guard themselves from the shooter.

Knowing that an active shooter situation can arise while traveling home or abroad, everyone should have an idea of how best to respond during an active shooter situation.

What should you do when there’s an active shooter situation?

According to the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) Program at Texas State University, in the event of an active shooter, people should “avoid, deny and defend” if possible.

AVOID: Avoid the shooter by initiating a plan to exit the area quickly.

DENY: Make your location not easily accessible. This can be by creating a barrier to block the shooter, or becoming inconspicuous.

DEFEND: As a last resort, defend against the attacker. This is a last effort for survival.

In addition to this, people should remain vigilant in all situations; i.e., being aware and alert of their surroundings, identifying nearby exits and backup exits when arriving at a location, remaining alert should something go amiss during an event (for example, if the music stops in the middle of a concert), and listening to first responders’ instructions to safely escape the emergency situation.


Week in Review

According to BloombergMarriott CEO Arne Sorenson says Trump’s divisive languages and policies are pushing travelers to Canada.

Business Traveler notes Air Canada now offers alternative payment options for its international customers.

4Hoteliers reports Singapore Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4 debuted this week.

According to SkiftStorm Herwart’s high winds disrupted travel across Central Europe on Sunday, leaving five dead and several injured.

Fortune notes United Airlines just started the longest nonstop flight from the United States. The 15- to 18-hour flight covers an 8,700-mile distance and is scheduled to run from Los Angeles International Airport to Singapore Changi Airport.

Skift notes Wall Street Journal launched an online travel site powered by Upside.

According to Travel WeeklyUK hoteliers witnessed a rise in domestic demand over the summer.

The Sun reports European airline Finnair wants to begin weighing passengers before flights in order to streamline operating costs. The airline currently relies on outdated estimates from the European Aviation Safety Agency and wants to figure out an exact weight and balance of the aircraft.

According to U.S. News & World ReportGary/Chicago International Airport opened a new $3 million flight center aimed at corporate travel.

A new study finds corporates lack visibility into travel spend methodsPYMNTS.com reportsAccording to Skift, the same study found that business travelers rarely use virtual payments, which is a sign of companies’ slow adoption.

Bloomberg notes United is nearing a deal to acquire as many as 40 used Airbus Jetliners.

USA TODAY shares tips on how to fight back against the “beyond our control” excuse often given by airlines, hotels or cruise lines.

Business Traveller reports Qantas Frequent Flyer members will soon be able to earn points through Uber rides.