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A travel buyer’s job is to ensure that corporate employees safely travel where they’re needed at a reasonable cost. But it’s much more than that. Importantly, these travel buyers are looking to balance corporate security and budgets with the individual traveler’s preferences and convenience.
A panel of experienced travel buyers told GBTA attendees from Center Stage that successful corporate travel buyers must work hand-in-hand with human resources to help increase employee retention and recruitment. In these days of low unemployment, they recognize their role in helping keep employees happy.
“How do we make travel an attractive part of getting people on board, keeping them there and having them do what they’re supposed to do?” said Stephen Gheerow, travel buyer with the Ford Foundation.
Isabelle Donovan senior manager of global travel at The Boeing Co. revealed that they are also working to improve the experience for their 80,000 travelers. She’d like to “deploy all the fun stuff with AI, machine learning, and chatbots” as well as increase self-service.
“We want to make the travelers really efficient on the road and self-serviced and…have the more expensive agent interaction kept for when something really blows up,” Donovan said.
New York Life Insurance Co. Corp. V.P., CSD Ray Greeve credited technology with helping to integrate various data streams to better forecast costs and identify waste and improper expense reporting. “You can see who’s renting a car and who is submitting taxi receipts at the same time,” he said.
Technology, while increasing traveler convenience and providing data for better cost controls, can be the source of headaches too.
The panelists agreed that the sheer volume of new technologies is a challenge. Each technology investment “must provide a value add,” Donovan explained.
Corporations must also ensure a new app or other technology is secure before they adopt it. These types of security reviews are sometimes “long and drawn out,” said Greeve.
Keeping travelers—particularly technology-adept Millenials—happy while managing security risks and travel costs aren’t easy. Often these priorities clash.
“Our next generation of our travelers…grew up with tablets, phones in their hands,” said Denise Truso, travel services manager with Abbott. “They want to use the apps they love in their personal lives for business, which proves problematic for travel managers” who are concerned about security and safety.
Gheerow agreed, explaining that Ford Foundation wants to give employees access to a Ford app store so they can use some of their favorite apps in a secure way.
New facial recognition and CAT scan technologies are key to stopping terrorists, according to two of the nation’s highest security officials who spoke Monday on Center Stage at GBTA Convention 2018.
Transportation Security Administrator (TSA) David Pekoske calls for “better security faster” at Monday’s Q&A session with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, led by GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick. Pekoske said that we must get the technology in place faster than our adversaries, and faster than government has typically acted.
“There’s nothing I’m more excited about in our mission set than the capability of biometrics, and specifically facial recognition or comparison technology, to enhance our facilitation and security efforts,” McAleelan explained. Through pilot programs at multiple airports with a number of domestic and foreign carriers, he reported that the agency has been able to screen 700,000 travelers with biometrics and achieve a 98 percent match rate.
In addition to biometrics, new CAT scan technology will be able to do a much better job detecting threats such as those in luggage. Pekoske shared that his agency plans to replace 2,000 checkpoint x-ray machines with CAT scan technology. In addition to significantly enhanced screening capabilities, he predicted that in three to five years, passengers will not need to remove any items—including food, liquids, or electronics—from their carry-on bags.
In addition to enhanced security, he highlighted traveler benefits such as expedited boarding and arrivals, adding that his agency has been able hold or reduce wait times for five consecutive years using new technologies. Responding to security concerns, he stated the importance of technology remaining cyber secure, not retaining information on U.S. citizens, and maintaining transparency with the public, privacy groups, the media and legislators.
On the horizon, the two agencies will better integrate the PreCheck and Global Entry programs.
Commissioner McAleenan cited tracking ISIS operatives’ widely scattered movements throughout the world, and the 70 percent growth of e-commerce shipments as his top two concerns.
From his agency’s perspective, Administrator Pekoske reiterated the Commissioner’s terrorism concerns, adding that undetected operatives, “lone actors,” pose a real challenge to intelligence operations and those on the front lines. “Security is a shared responsibility,” he added, GBTA members, airlines, airports and passengers included.
Each with over 60,000 employees around the globe, keeping their teams prepared in uncertain times is an ongoing challenge. “I spend the majority of my time on the front line,” said Administrator Pekoske, which he explained includes not only security checkpoints, but also vetting processes, air marshals, and international staff at last-point-of-departure airports around the world to ensure they have the resources, technology and procedures in place to best do their jobs. Commissioner McAleenan underscored the challenge, noting that the travel industry’s ninth straight year of over four-percent growth in international air arrivals. He said he is focused on three imperatives: executing operationally, providing his staff with the tools they need to facilitate travel and improve the customer experience, and building partnerships with the aviation industry, international partners and other federal agencies, like CBP.
Both TSA and CBP garner an unprecedented level of coverage in the news cycle. When asked how his agency responds when, for example, an internal pilot like Quiet Skies program leaks into the public domain, Administrator Pekoske explained that he operates knowing that any new procedure or program can become public at any time. “Our job, both Kevin [McAleenan] and my job, is to manage and mitigate risk,” he continued, emphasizing that Quiet Skies looks at patterns of travel to help identify flights which may require an Air Marshal. “We have a very, very robust process inside TSA—which I think is absolutely necessary and something that I 100 percent endorse—of oversight from the Department of Homeland Security on all of our processes that assess risk by individuals.” Commissioner McAleenan agreed, adding that his agency faces “a tremendous amount of attention on all aspects of our mission, being responsible for anything that comes in or out of the country.”
Women who want to move ahead in their careers must take risks, thrive through failure and talk the talk, according to three female business leaders on Monday at GBTA Convention 2018.
The business travel executives—Jodi Allen, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Hertz; Melissa Maher, SVP Marketing and Innovation at Expedia; and Traci Mercer, SVP of Lodging, Ground, and Sea at Sabre—participated in a Q&A session led by Dorothy Dowling, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Best Western Hotels and Resorts.
Each shared their insights on the unique challenges they faced as women arriving in leadership positions within their companies. Although their personal leadership journeys differ, their advice for women in the business travel industry coalesces around a few core themes:
All three women agree that taking risks early in their careers proved critically important to their successes. “The biggest challenge that women face is [not] being put into crucible roles where they’re learning new skills and pushing past their limits,” said Jodi. For leaders and companies, she advises working with women to draw them out of their comfort zones. “We strongly believe that diversity is a business builder,” she said.
Rising leaders must take risks, part of which, explained Melissa, is seeking out new opportunities. “Ask for what you want,” she advised, echoing the same advice her mother bestowed upon her in high school. “Rarely will leaders say no when you’re wanting to take on more responsibility,” she argued.
Thriving Through Failure
An essential side effect of risk—failure—is key to advancing personally and professionally, the panel agreed. “When you are someone who rises within a company, your mistakes are on display for everyone,” said Dorothy, underscoring why women often avoid taking risks. “It’s not okay to fail—it’s imperative that you fail,” added Traci. “If you don’t fail and don’t fail early, you’re going to be so scared of failure as you go later in your career,” she continued. “It’s going to paralyze you from taking risks,” which “will limit your ability to go forward,” she explained. “I’m a big believer that you learn the most from failures.” “You need to be able to pick yourself up quickly and move forward,” echoed Jodi. Melissa suggested finding sponsors who support you if a risk leads to failure.
Talking the Talk
While it may sound cliché, these female leaders agreed that talking about diversity—and setting the example with women as leaders and board members—is key. For women looking to grow in their careers, they stress the importance of seeking out partners, mentors, and sponsors for support and guidance. Developing a different perspective and stepping out of comfort zones helps too, they said. “Every opportunity you get, meet more people, go more places, read more things,” said Jodi. “Using partners is a wonderful way to do that.”
For executives and companies, Traci advises using metrics to lead difficult discussions around diversity and inclusion. “Numbers can neutralize,” she said. “Measure it and talk about it.” She also encouraged companies to engage female employees, citing a women’s engagement group her company initiated. Discuss why diversity is important to your company and include men on that conversation, as difficult as that may be, advised Melissa.
As only the third person in 90 years to head the largest hotel company in the world, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson shared his outlook on the business travel industry, the shakeup over group commissions and the company’s home-sharing strategy on Center Stage at GBTA Convention 2018.
Sorenson said he is “thrilled to be in an industry that’s growing,” during a one-on-one interview kicking off Center Stage with GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick. Marriott’s success, like much of the rest of the travel industry, is thanks to solid economic progress and the global growth of the middle class, he said.
Consumers are spending more of their dollars on experiences, also contributing to the recent growth many in the travel industry are enjoying.
Perhaps the best news is that Sorenson doesn’t think the prosperity will end anytime soon. “I don’t think we’re in a plateau or peak. We are in a complicated world today, and that complicated world exists in the United States and it exists abroad.” Those complexities are hard to predict, but the bigger trends will last for decades, Sorenson predicted.
McCormick and Sorenson discussed some contentious issues, including Marriott’s market concentration, pricing and group commissions. With a portfolio of 30 brands and an enormous presence in some larger cities, McCormick relayed GBTA members’ concerns over rates and the ability to negotiate in those markets.
“We don’t have much pricing power,” Sorenson explained. “As big as we are--roughly 15 percent the of U.S. hotel business--we only price about half of those rooms.” The other half, he explained, is priced by franchisees. Further, Sorenson said, there is “total transparency, enormous competition…[and] the potential for a rate premium is extraordinarily modest.”
In addressing the company’s decision to reduce group intermediary commissions, Sorenson highlighted the significant rise in group business over the past decade. He would like ultimately to transition to a commission system where group intermediaries are rewarded based on the value they deliver to their customers.
“Some were delivering amazing value, some weren’t at all,” he said, “and they were all charging 10 percent. Ten percent in the context of many of our hotels in bigger cities in the U.S. is a very healthy percentage of the total profitability of that hotel.” He proposed finding a position where “the economics are fair and we are as aligned as we can be.”
Sorenson discussed the home sharing’s effect on the hotel business and the company’s future plans to participate in that space; however, the company’s pilot program—200 whole-home units in England connected to the loyalty program--competes for leisure travelers, not business travelers. Home sharing, he said, competes “broadly in the hospitality space,” but skews overwhelmingly to leisure and budget travel. As for the future, Sorensen said, “I think it’s fair to say this business exists, and we’re unlikely to be able to wake up tomorrow and suddenly see that it’s [the home services industry] gone.”
The GBTA Broadcast Studio will stream live for the final day on Wednesday, August 15. Our last day of interviews will feature back-to-back interviews with our exhibitors on Innovation Row in addition to industry executives as they share their insights into business travel trends, opportunities and challenges.
Here is Wednesday’s schedule:
The GBTA Broadcast Studio continues to stream live on Tuesday. Don’t miss out as leading industry executives share their insights into current and future industry trends, opportunities and challenges facing the business travel industry, and much more. Tune in throughout the week as we film over 100 interviews with leading executives.
Here is Tuesday’s schedule:
The GBTA Broadcast Studio continues to stream live on Monday. With more than 100 interviews with industry leaders scheduled throughout the week, be sure to tune in for exclusive insights into current and future business travel trends.
Here is Monday’s Schedule:
The GBTA Broadcast Studio kicks off today with Media Day. We’ll be streaming live from Sunday through Wednesday and more than 100 interviews with industry leaders scheduled throughout the week. Tune in for exclusive insights into current and future business travel trends.
Here is Sunday’s Schedule:
*The following post was originally sent as an email to GBTA members.*
Dear GBTA Members,
Convention is finally upon us! I am very excited to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of GBTA and Convention, and I am looking forward to seeing you all there.
GBTA Convention has a terrific line up once again this year. We have already announced that Convention Arena will feature sports icon Billie Jean King, and ABC’s Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary. I am happy to announce that Wednesday’s Convention Arena will feature victims’ rights and missing children advocate John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted. He was a leading force behind the founding of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. With a powerful message urging others to forge ahead despite setbacks, John Walsh inspires audiences to take steps to make the world a better place, and that every mission toward that goal is significant, no matter how great or small.
I am also happy to announce that we will feature the session Is Bigger Better?: The Impact of Industry Consolidation on Business Travel on Tuesday’s Center Stage. This session will focus on the impact of industry consolidation and discuss future trends. The panel will be moderated by Guy Langford, Deloitte’s U.S. Transportation, Hospitality & Services (TH&S) leader, and will feature David Kong, President & CEO, Best Western® Hotels & Resorts; Christine Taylor, Executive Vice President and COO, Enterprise Holdings; and, Rob Greyber, President of Egencia®.
Also, on Tuesday, we will feature Turning the Tables—Buyers Take Center Stage. Kurt Ekert, CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, will moderate a panel of senior buyers providing their take on the latest trends, top opportunities and major challenges facing today’s business travel industry. Buyer panelists include Isabelle Donovan of The Boeing Company; Stephen Gheerow of the Ford Foundation, Raymond Greeve of New York Life Insurance Company and Denise Lynn Truso of Abbott.
In addition, on Monday, GBTA will also be featuring the Successful Women Leading in Business Travel and The Challenges of Security in Today’s Volatile World panels. Monday will also feature a must-see One-on-One interview with Marriott’s Arne Sorenson.
Elections will be held Monday through Tuesday, August 13-14, at GBTA Convention 2018 in San Diego. You will have an opportunity to hear from each of the candidates at the GBTA Annual meeting which will be held Monday, August 13 at 10:30am. There are four open Board positions—three Direct and one Allied. All Direct members can vote for the three Direct Member at Large positions and all Allied Members can vote for the Allied Member At Large position. The results of this election will be announced on Wednesday at Convention Arena. I encourage you to attend the Annual Meeting and listen to the candidates share their vision for the future of our Association. And of course, I also encourage everyone to vote.
5K-Awareness Run/ Walk
This year we have decided to do something different so we created the 5k Awareness Run/Walk in partnership with ECPAT-USA and made possible by American Airlines. ECPAT-USA is the leading policy organization in the United States seeking to end the exploitation of children through awareness, advocacy, policy, and legislation. All proceeds will go directly to ECPAT-USA. The 5k Awareness Run/Walk will be held on Sunday, August 12 at 7:30am. Start your day off right! Grab a friend because this is a great way to catch up as well as helping to make a difference. If you can’t make the 5k, please consider making a donation onsite at the ECPAT-USA kiosk that will be located on the Expo Show Floor.
Committee Highlight: Payment Solutions Committee
The Payment Solutions Committee’s mission is to provide strategic direction for business travel payment. The committee provides leadership to members and the global business travel community through education, strategic direction and universal standards, as it relates to travel payment.
The committee is driven to define the barriers centered on virtual card use and establish standardized processes to enable great acceptance across the industry by engaging with all of the key stakeholders in the travel ecosystem. The Committee will be hosting several events at Convention on Sunday, August 12 for a Travel Payments Tool Kit session and a Roundtable Discussion. They are also several educational sessions on Virtual Payments being offered at Convention. Please check our website for those dates, times and session descriptions.
GBTA Research has been very busy! Below is list of newly released research. Please check it out. It is available to all members free of charge and is located in the GBTA Hub.
Simple Meetings: This first-of-its-kind study looks at simple meetings, which are small, company-held meetings with replicable requirements. The study found that half of company-held meetings are simple meetings that are often not managed or measured which cost companies savings and satisfaction.
Business Travel Dining Trends: Did you know that there are clear generational differences when it comes to business traveler dining, payment and expense options? This new study reveals generational differences as well as insights into healthy eating and technology and dining. This study has fascinating insights into your travelers and their dining habits.
Safety Concerns for Women Travelers: This research revealed travel buyers are concerned about female business traveler safety, however, only 18 percent of travel policies specifically address female safety. To learn more about what concerns women travelers, check out this important study.
Global Travel Forecast: Travel prices are expected to rise sharply in 2019, with hotels going up 3.7% and flights 2.6%, driven by a growing global economy and rising oil prices, according to our research.
Global BTI: This study will be released at Convention. Stay tuned for that announcement.
As always, thank you to our members for your continued support and commitment. Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or questions you may have. I hope to see many of you in San Diego over the course of this coming week.
In less than 48 hours, GBTA Convention 2018 will be kicking off in San Diego! For our last Throwback Thursday post of the year, we brought former GBTA employee Hank Roeder into our offices to talk Convention history.
Choosing Host Cities
Hank’s Favorite Convention Memory
Famous Convention Speakers