The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

Catherine McGavock
Catherine McGavock
Catherine McGavock's Blog

GBTA, VDR Launch Registration for European Conference in 2017

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the voice of the global business travel industry, and its German partner association VDR, the German Business Travel Association, announced that registration is open for GBTA Conference 2017 Frankfurt in Partnership with VDR.

The conference will take place 28-30 November 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany at The Forum at Messe Frankfurt. This year’s theme, Convergence, addresses the industry-wide disruption caused by the merging of various functions, roles and policies. From the changing role of the travel manager to the emergence of new and transformation of existing players in the market, these disrupters have paved the way for the evolution of business travel.

We are thrilled to be working with VDR yet again to put together a phenomenal program for our conference attendees. Business travel professionals who attend will certainly benefit from our world-class speakers, tailored education sessions and countless networking opportunities.

“Our joint partnership enables us to create the largest business travel event of its kind in Europe,” said Dirk Gerdom, President of VDR. “We are proud to host this event and bring attendees an exceptional program for the fourth year in a row.”

Attendee registration is now open and available online. Register by 20 June 2017 for up to 755 in savings. For the latest developments, please visit

Media registration is complimentary for qualified media. GBTA will also be hosting a Media Cocktail Party giving reporters the opportunity to hear breaking news directly from key industry suppliers. Please contact Nikki Stimson at for more information on media registration.

Risk, Mobility and Consumerization Were the Hot Topics of GBTA Conference 2016 Frankfurt in Partnership with VDR

GBTA, VDR Wrap Successful Event With Record Attendance

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) – the voice of the global business travel industry – and German business travel buyer association VDR – wrapped up their third successful joint conference in Europe this week with record attendance. The event brought together over 950 attendees from 20+ countries for networking, education and top-notch speakers.


Featured speakers included international counter-terrorism and security expert, Hagai M. Segal. Hagai talked risk and security to the packed audience of travel professionals from across the globe covering everything from the impact of ISIS and Boka Haram to the current situations in Africa and the Ukraine, and more. He discussed terror threats to business travellers and focused on the different type of threat felt from numerous small, and seemingly random, attacks saying it has a major psychological impact. day1-wrap-pic-1-hagai

GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick hosted industry leaders Mike Eberhard of Concur and Doug Anderson of American Express Global Business Travel at Centre Stage for one-on-one interviews. Eberhard gave his first European interview as the new President of Concur, sharing his thoughts on leadership, consumerization, duty of care and the future of the buyer role.  Doug Anderson spoke about acquisitions, company culture, risk, mobility and the importance of diversity. eberhard anderson

Grayling government relations experts Russel McCleave Patten and Richard Jukes took the stage Wednesday for a lively debate on Brexit moderated by Caroline Strachan of Festive Road. While the two had differing opinions on the matter, both agreed that now is the time for engagement and dialogue no matter what side you agree with. brexit

Centre Stage was also the sight of two thought-provoking industry panels. The New Leaders of the Technology Revolution Unplugged featured some of the brightest and best leaders of technology startups sharing their perspectives on innovation in travel technology.  The Industry Leader Distribution Outlook Panel featured C-level executives from across the industry sharing their views on industry consolidation, NDC, direct connect and other issues impacting the constantly evolving business travel distribution landscape.

Attendees were also treated to high-level education sessions covering from risk and data privacy to travel policy and more to help buyers find the right balance in their travel management roles. Next year’s Conference will return to Frankfurt 28-30 November 2017.

Success in Business and Travel Requires Leadership, Vision and Cohesion

During GBTA Conference 2016 Frankfurt in Partnership with VDR, GBTA Europe President Gehan Colliander delivered a speech about the importance of partnerships for GBTA in Europe.

Read the full speech below.


Success in business and in travel requires leadership, vision and cohesion. The travel industry exemplifies this cohesion and togetherness, with buyers and sellers working hand-in-hand to achieve efficiencies for both the organization and the individual traveler.

It is all about balance!

GBTA Europe succeeds because of its very special relationships with its national partner associations.

Our partnership with VDR , the Austrian; Danish; Finnish; Norwegian and Swedish business travel associations, The Netherlands business travel association as well as the UK & Ireland Institute of Travel & Meetings have allowed us to create the largest business travel conference in Europe.

The GBTA Europe Partnership Council plays a vital role in guiding what we do in Europe and acts as the perfect environment for sharing of best practices and ideas among all the member associations.

Following on from the success of our last three conferences in Germany, we are working with VDR to extend its partnership with GBTA for not only next year’s Frankfurt conference in 2017, but also a further event in 2018. We are also proud to be collaborating with our other partners throughout the year on a series of events.

We will be partnering with our four Nordic Business Travel Associations for the Nordic Business Travel Summit in February; with the Institute of Travel Management in the UK on their Annual Conference in May 2017 and with the Netherlands Association of Travel Management on their conference in September.

One of GBTA’s main goals is to deliver the best education and resources within the business travel industry. Our educational offerings continue to expand, and 2017 promises to be GBTA Europe’s biggest year ever in that regard.

And in response to overwhelming demand, we again will be offering the Fundamentals of Business Travel Management to the Nordics supplementing our extended education programme in the UK.

This, is in addition to our burgeoning advocacy programme that Mike and Ingo will update you on tomorrow and the work of our volunteers that Christle referenced yesterday.

GBTA, with its partners are working hard on your behalf – to provide a ‘balanced’ suite of benefits.

So, I would like to thank you again for your participation, and wish you a very successful conference.

Will the Italian Business Travel Market Take a Roman Holiday?

Of the five European countries included in the most recent GBTA Foundation Western Europe BTI Report – the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Italy – Italy is the most perplexing. While it, like the other nations, will experience slow and steady growth for 2016 and 2017, it won’t grow at the same rate as neighboring Spain, France or Germany. Italy is, however, one of the catalysts for ensuring that Europe’s recent economic recovery has come to the Continent’s southern nations and has not just been confined to the larger, northern ones.

Italy, along with the other nation’s that were examined for the Western Europe BTI Report, make up 70 percent of Western Europe’s business travel market, and serve as a strong indicator for the European business travel market more broadly. Taken together, the business travel trends of these five countries demonstrate that Western Europe’s business travel confidence and demand is growing due to a number of positive factors that are projected to continue into next year.

Like its neighboring European economies, Italy is expected to see growth in business travel spending in 2016 and 2017, though it will not experience the same higher rates as other Euro countries. It will, however, see growth rates of 3.6 percent and 3.5 percent in 2016 and 2017, respectively for its business travel market. Italy BTI 2016 H1

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and FocusEconomics, Italy’s economy is projected to experience a 1.0 percent to 1.4 percent increase in its GDP in 2016 and 2017, which while low comparative to the growth rates of Italy’s northern neighbors, it is at least steady and consistent – with more robust growth anticipated on the horizon.

As Italy’s labor market improves and the government budget deficit continues to decline amid increasing tax revenue and declining interest payments on that debt, Italy’s business travel spending is expected to continue to rise, albeit at modest levels. However, Italy’s public debt as a percentage of GDP is the fifth largest in the world and second largest in the Euro zone, 132.6 percent against GDP in 2015. This sizable debt has a huge impact on the business travel market and will likely hinder investment prospects in the near-term.

Despite Italy’s significant debt, inflation continues to remain at historic lows, which should suppress travel-related goods and service prices in the next couple of years and therefore consumers and corporations should experience cost savings that will help drive Italy’s business travel in 2016 and 2017.

While Italy’s overall business travel market has seen modest growth recently, its domestic business travel market – which accounts for 90 percent of Italy’s total business travel market – saw a decline in 2013 before rebounding in 2014. Since then, Italy has experienced slow and steady growth in its domestic business travel market and is expected to do so again in 2016 and 2017 at rates of 3.0 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

Domestic business travel will benefit from low oil prices and an improving labor market, yet weaker global demand, political instability and high unemployment rates of 11 percent will likely suppress Italy’s growth prospects. It will not, however, suppress growth enough for Italy to experience a decline either in economic or business travel-related activity. Given Italy’s mixed-bag of positive and negative economic data, slow and steady growth is probably the best to be expected.

Germany Continues to be Europe’s Economic Powerhouse

Germany is the largest economy in Europe, currently the third largest business travel market in the world, is led by one of the most powerful women in the world and has a strong and influential voice on both European and global affairs. Given Germany’s power, wealth and influence, it will continue to be the EU’s economic powerhouse, a title that it is unlikely to relinquish any time soon.

According to the latest GBTA Foundation Western Europe BTI Report, sponsored by Visa, spending on total business travel is expected to increase in 2016 and 2017 by 7.6 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively. These positive gains actually represent a slight downgrade in expectations from previous reports, but healthy growth is still forecast nonetheless. Of the five European countries cited in the most recent Western Europe BTI Report, Germany is expected to experience the second highest growth rate in business travel spending in 2016 while a confluence of factors will ensure that Germany’s economy continues to be the dominant force throughout the EU bloc. Western Europe BTI 2016 H1 Germany

Similarly, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany’s economy is projected to further strengthen in 2016. Due to a robust labor market, labor market reforms, historically low interest rates, low energy prices, increasing demand for Germany’s goods and services from its neighboring euro economies, and a rebounding business investment environment, business travel activity will likely remain positive for the foreseeable future, albeit at a slower pace than seen in 2015.

Given Germany’s historically low inflation, travel-related goods and service prices – such as for hotels, airfare, petro, automobile rentals, etc. - should remain relatively constant. With stable prices and predictability, consumers and corporations will likely experience travel-related cost savings further driving Germany’s business travel performance in 2016 and 2017.

Starting in 2010, spending on Germany’s domestic business travel – which accounts for 80 percent of all business travel – has experienced five straight years of growth. What was a $37.8 billion market in 2010 is projected to be a $55.2 billion market in 2016. Germany’s international outbound business travel has experienced year-over-year growth since 2012.

As Germany’s economy continues to expand in 2016 and 2017 - fueled by higher levels of exports of goods and services to other euro area countries - domestic and international outbound business travel spending will continue to expand, as well. Germany’s economic growth will help further solidify Germany’s position within both the Euro bloc and the global economy as well as within the global business travel market.

The Brexit Conundrum

Despite the stark warnings of many prominent economists, analysts and financial experts, on 23 June the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU. The nation which boasts the mother of parliaments exercised its democratic right through a referendum to go against the perceived wisdom and strike out into the unknown.

Since then the main UK political parties have undergone their own firestorm with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, facing a leadership challenge and more significantly the UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the campaign for the UK to Remain in the EU, stepping down. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when Theresa May took the helm. Ms May also supported remaining in the EU, but has said that the will of the British voters must be respected.

Brexit has the potential to have significant ramifications beyond just the UK. The global economy and global business travel market, however, are hoping a change in leadership in the UK will promulgate a successful transition to a world where the UK is independent from the EU. According to the most recent GBTA Foundation BTI™ Outlook – Annual Global Report & Forecast, sponsored by Visa, the financial upheaval and pending changes to trade and immigration rules will raise many concerns in corporate management and travel offices - causing some postponement, and even outright cancellation, of business trips. It may also trigger travel budget constriction as management seeks to hedge the uncertainty.

Since the Brexit vote, the global economy and the global business traveler market have faced renewed uncertainty. The pound dropped to its lowest point in over three decades, and many UK travel-related businesses warned that the negative effects could hurt their bottom line and travelers alike. While there has been a slight improvement since the Brexit vote, the dust continues to settle, yet uncertainty remains the order of the day in terms of both the global economy and the global business travel market.

While the global BTI report was compiled before the Brexit vote, the added uncertainty the vote brings will make its mark felt on business travel. If the UK does enter a mild recession, domestic and outbound business travel will suffer. On the other hand, a much weaker pound will make leisure and business travel to the UK a real bargain, while business travel between the UK and Europe will likely slow as issues surrounding visa, entry requirements and passports will need to be renegotiated.

The UK has a proud history of liberal democracy, innovation and enterprise. The global economy is hoping that Theresa May and the UK can draw on these qualities as they determine the best course of action for leaving the EU.  

Spanish Castle (Business Travel) Magic?

In the Jimi Hendrix song referenced in the title of this post, it takes about half a day traveling by dragonfly to get to Spain. Luckily for business travelers, there are many more comfortable options for traveling to and from Spain than insects. Indeed, it is expected that total business travel spending in Spain will top out at $20.7 billion this year with growth expected to continue next year as well, according to the most recent Western Europe BTI Report sponsored by Visa.

Spain is helping ensure that the recent gains in business travel are occurring throughout Europe and not confined to a handful of the bigger Northern economies. Total growth in business travel in Spain for 2016 and 2017 is expected to be 6.5 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively. Spain’s overall economy, by comparison, is only expected to grow 2.7 percent in 2016 and 2.3 percent in 2017.

Several factors – including low borrowing rates, new structural reforms and robust domestic demand, driven by increased purchasing power and improvement in labor market conditions – are driving Spain’s growth. Spain’s interest rates also continue to remain at historic lows, providing consumers and corporations cost savings in travel-related goods and services.

While Spain is expected to see continued growth, the U.K.’s recent vote to leave the E.U. could harm Spain’s banking sector leading to a domino effect for the rest of the economy. Wells Fargo Securities recently reported that Spain’s bank claims on British households, businesses and the government represent 16 percent of the total assets of the Spanish banking system.

Despite the threat that Brexit poses to Spain, the overall picture for the nation’s business travel remains healthy. Spending on domestic business travel accounts for nearly 80 percent of all business travel in Spain. Domestic business travel is expected to grow at 7.0 percent in 2016 and 4.3 in 2017.

While Spain’s international outbound business travel sector has seen declines in the earlier part of the decade, the market started to see a rebound in 2014 – a rebound that is projected to continue with growth of 4.7 percent and 7.9 percent in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Spain’s professional football teams – primarily Barcelona and Real Madrid – are the envy of Europe, if not the world. While their economy and their business travel market might not inspire quite the same level of admiration, they will continue to see positive growth in the coming years.  

Business Travel Growth Projected to Rise Faster than Economic Growth in France in the Coming Years

All of Europe is focused on France this month as the Euro 2016 soccer tournament is underway to select a European champion. The home team has a very good shot of being crowned victors of soccer if not of economic recovery. While the nation’s economy and business travel markets are not out-performing the rest of Europe, they have both experienced respectable growth recently that is expected to continue throughout 2016 and 2017. Of course, the overall impact on Europe’s economy and business travel of the recent vote by the UK to leave the European Union is still unknown.

Despite a lingering transportation strike that is affecting both business and tourism travel throughout France, the French business travel market is forecast to continue to grow in 2016 and 2017, according to the latest GBTA Foundation Western Europe business travel forecast sponsored by Visa Inc. France is the sixth largest business travel market in the world, and its business travel sector is expected to grow at 3.9 percent in 2016 and 5.8 percent in 2017. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, France’s economic growth is projected to rise to 1.3 percent in 2016 and 1.6 percent in 2017.

France’s increase in economic growth is largely the result of lower oil prices, less fiscal contraction and the cumulative effects of sustained monetary stimulus policies. Their business travel market, however, appears to be a harbinger of an even more positive economic future for France growing at a more rapid pace. Total business travel spending in France is set to top out at $38.6 billion USD in 2016 and $40.8 billion in 2017 - a 10 percent increase over 2015.

Even with this positive forecast, France grew at a slower rate than any other country in the Western Europe study save for Italy. A number of factors contributed to why France did not grow as rapidly as, say, the United Kingdom or Spain, but the country’s weak business confidence seems to be the main drag on France’s economic and business travel growth potential. With massive strikes over proposed labor reform laws – such as the transportation strikes mentioned previously - consumers and businesses alike are feeling less than optimistic amid growing economic uncertainties. These factors, in part, may weigh heavily on corporate investment and, subsequently, have a direct impact on business travel spending.

Even with lingering uncertainty, low consumer and business confidence and sluggish economic growth, France’s business travel market has become much healthier in recent years than it has been in the recent past. Domestic business, which accounts for 65 percent of all business travel, is projected to grow in 2016 and 2017, increasing at a rate of 3 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively. International travel is also expected to grow at a rate of around 6 percent in both 2016 and 2017. Comparing these figures to previous years when domestic travel grew by less than 1 percent in 2014 and international travel contracted by over 11 percent in 2012, and it appears that France continues to rebound from the recent economic downturn.  

Will the UK Vote for Brexit? And How it May Impact Business Travel

There has been a recent tightening in polls as UK voters prepare to choose if they will remain part of the European Union or not. The Brexit vote – scheduled for tomorrow, June 23 – will determine the UK’s future role in relation to the rest of the bloc. It also means that a $47.1 billion business travel market may face more restrictions with respect to trade, travel and commerce among the rest of Europe – posing a significant risk to the short-term economic recovery of Europe and longer term consequences for countries with close economic ties to the UK such as Ireland.

According to GBTA's latest Western Europe business travel forecast, based on the import and export figures, the UK needs the EU more than the other way around. The UK sends about 50 percent of its exports to EU countries and receives about the same percentage of its imports in return. The EU, given its size and reach, sends only about 7 percent of its total exports to the UK and receives only about 5 percent of all imports from Britain. A vote in favor of Brexit would necessitate renegotiation of trade agreements between the UK and the EU, which likely would be far less favorable to the current arrangement.

If voters in the UK do decide to vote for Brexit, not only would trade and the economies of both sides be affected, but there would also be a significant human toll. Under current EU rules, citizens are able to move freely among member states. Brexit would suddenly create three million expatriates in the UK, approximately two million of whom are employed in the British economy. The legal status of these individuals would have to be negotiated. In the most extreme case - these people would have to return home and reapply for a UK work permit - the UK could lose 6 percent of its total workforce almost overnight.

For individual business travelers, perhaps the biggest effects the Brexit would have is on the ease in which they could travel to and from the United Kingdom and the prices they would need to pay to do so – both of which could become a major hindrance for business travelers and for companies doing business between the UK and the EU. Major British airlines have stated that they expect Brexit to increase airfares by up to 30 percent due to the UK trying to replicate the benefits of Europe's drive to liberalize the aviation sector.

Additionally, the heads of the Gulf’s three biggest airlines expressed concerns about the impact on the travel industry in the event of the United Kingdom leaving the EU As a European Union member, travel is currently unrestricted within the bloc making business travel across borders much easier than it had been previously. Visa and entry requirements, check points, air travel would all have to be quickly renegotiated if the UK were to cut its ties with the EU while ensuring safe, effective and affordable travel between the UK and the rest of Europe.

With respect to business travel, the latest Western Europe report forecasts that UK business travel spending will reach $50.9 billion in 2016 and $54.4 billion in 2017 – healthy increases of 7.9 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively. This coincides with a strengthening of the UK’s overall economy that is projected to continue in 2016 and beyond. Buoyed by increased demand for its goods and services as well as improved employment opportunities, low inflation, and a parliamentary budget surplus, the UK’s economy continues to grow and its business travel and attractiveness as a business travel destination continues to improve as well.

A vote in favor of Brexit, however, could severely hurt the UK’s economy and Europe’s economic recovery. The uncertainty a prolonged renegotiation of the relationship between Europe and the UK could take up to seven years. During that time, the economic activity as well as overall business travel would be significantly curtailed.

The potential for Brexit to herald the disintegration of the European Union – a body that facilitates free trade and freedom of movement throughout Europe is also a real possibility if Brexit were to succeed.

It would undoubtedly be in both the UK and Europe’s interest to come to a workable agreement on trade and labor that Brexit would likely bring.  In any event, the decision is up to British voters and British voters alone. The world anxiously watches to see what the outcome of the referendum on 23 June will be.

A Look into The Future of Travel Distribution

Day two of GBTA Conference 2015 Frankfurt in partnership with VDR began with for the first ever GBTA Media Briefing. Buzzing, energetic and full of conversation, international journalists had the opportunity to meet with a range of suppliers learning about the latest in business travel.


Back at Centre Stage, the day opened with a Presidential handover from Torbjörn Erling to Gehan Colliander, marking a new chapter for GBTA Europe.

Gehan said, “As a buyer, I value the GBTA membership and believe there is no other comparable association in the market in representing the buyer's needs.”

EuropeConference_Pres handover

Shortly after, Gehan, head of global travel for Boston Consulting Group, took her place on The Future of Travel Distribution panel alongside Rob Greyber, president of Egencia, and Oliver Quayle, SVP products, partners and marketing for KDS. Lotten Fowler, general manager of the Swedish Business Travel Association, moderated this panel with a focus on how the distribution eco-system is changing, how these changes affect each of the players in the chain and what impact this has on the corporate buyer and their travel programme. Data and how it can be leveraged was a hot topic, but Gehan warned that,  “we have to be careful about how we use data.”


Attendees also shared their thoughts on the panel over Twitter. Here are a few of their thoughtsl: EuropeConference_FODPanelTweets

Stay tuned for more exciting happenings from our record-breaking conference in Frankfurt!