The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

Caucusing About Travel

We met last week with Representative Gus Bilirakis (R) from Florida’s 12th District, who represents the fast-growing Tampa Bay region of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Recently, Rep. Bilirakis joined Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) to co-chair the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, which includes a bi-partisan group of over 90 Congressmen.

The good news is that we have had a very good relationship with the House Travel and Tourism Caucus over the years.

Congressman Bilirakis in action. (photo from his flickr photostream)

Congressman Bilirakis in action. (photo from his flickr photostream)

The even better news is that in his new role, Rep. Bilirakis has pledged to do more. Rep. Bilirakis was first elected in 2006 and has been working to drive his legislative agenda, including support of business travel, Florida tourism, and for Greek-American relations. He is also an avid baseball fan (think Spring Training sites!) and is married with four children.

We shared the latest BTI forecast and made plans for future collaboration. We are happy to count Rep. Bilirakis as another champion of business travel!

Looking Up: Business Travel to Fly Higher in 2014

We released our latest U.S. quarterly forecast last week and it is filled with positive news! Business travel spending finished out 2013 with better than expected growth and is poised for even greater growth in 2014.


There has been a great deal of media interest in this report and I found many reporters asking me the question, “why is business travel so important to business success?” The answer is easy really – business travel drives business growth. When companies are able to invest in the future, success follows.

Our GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States Q4 report showed international outbound travel to be a major driver of the overall spending growth. This should come as no surprise. During the recession when companies couldn’t find opportunities locally, they looked globally to push along their economic recovery.

The report shows U.S. business travel spending is expected to grow 6.6 percent to $289.8 billion in 2014. It also appears our elected officials have finally gotten the message that political uncertainty and brinksmanship stifles economic growth, and if it stays that way, we should be looking at a very healthy year for U.S. business travel.

Is this good news for the economy overall? Absolutely. I’ve already talked about business travel driving business growth, but an increase in business travel spend is also a leading indicator of job growth. In addition, the report showed the healthiest growth outlook for meeting activity since 2011. Meetings are typically larger investments that require advance planning, and companies only make these decisions when they have confidence in the longer term outlook for the economy.

For more on the latest BTI report, check out a sampling of the coverage by CNBC and USAToday pulled by our PR team:

Amy Langfield of CNBC writes:

Optimistic the economy will continue to improve, U.S. business travel spending is expected to climb more than earlier forecasts, boosted by an increase in outbound international travel, mainly to Western Europe.

The new Global Business Travel Association quarterly report, released Wednesday, predicts U.S. business travel spending will rise 6.6 percent to $289.8 billion in 2014, up from a 3.8 percent growth rate in 2013. Looking at just international travel spending, the increase is expected to hit 12.5 percent (to $36.7 billion), which followed a 1.8 percent growth rate in 2013 and a mere 0.8 percent rise in 2012.

“International outbound travel is the driver” of the increase, Mike McCormick, the executive director and chief operating officer of the association told CNBC in an interview Tuesday. And because an international traveler tends to spend more on airfare and hotels, on a per-person rate, overall spending goes up.

Overall, the number of business trips will increase, even domestically, but still with an eye on the cost. The uptick in spending doesn’t so much mean a loosening in terms of travel policies, but a willingness to invest in putting more people on the road, McCormick said.

And although spending on business travel is starting to increase, it’s far from a return to three martini lunches and a surf and turf with the clients. “We may not see that again in our lifetime,” he said. “We may have to save that for the ‘Mad Men.’ ”

The full report, the “GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States 2013 Q4,” comes with a caveat. “If our elected officials have finally gotten the message that political uncertainty and brinksmanship stifles economic growth, we should be looking at a very healthy year for U.S. business travel,” McCormick said in a statement issued with the report.

“Airports and hotels will be busy as American companies gain confidence and invest in travel to drive growth. And because business travel is a leading indicator of employment, this news is also another positive sign for the labor market.”

The longer-term optimistic view is reflected in the strengthening of bookings for group travel, which usually entails a longer lead time. While this sector has been rising for two years, the GBTA now expects group travel spending to rise by 6.5 percent in 2014 to $124.5 billion, with a volume increase of 1.7 percent.

USA Today’s Nancy Trejos reported:

Companies will spend more money on business travel this year, with a renewed focus on foreign destinations, according to a new report out today.

There was stronger-than-expected growth in business travel in 2013. That momentum should continue throughout this year, projects the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), a trade group for business travel managers.

U.S. business travel spending will jump 6.6% to $289.8 billion in 2014, the group predicts. The total number of trips should also increase, by 1.7%, to 461 million.

Spending on travel from the U.S. to other nations should climb 12.5% this year to $36.7 billion, the first time there’s been double-digit growth in years.

Michael McCormick, executive director and chief operating officer of the GBTA, says the improving economy is encouraging companies to spend more to send their employees off site.

“Companies are certainly feeling more confident that they will make a return on their investment and get results for the bottom line,” he says.

Business travel spending dropped significantly during the recession as companies saw their profits drop. It hit bottom in 2009 and has slowly started picking up since.

The GBTA is estimating that business travel spending grew 3.8% to $272 billion last year. There was, however, a 0.3% decline in the number of trips to 453.3 million.

Many companies are now asking their employees to try to use one trip to accomplish multiple tasks when in the past, they might have spread it out over two trips.

At the same time, they’re sending employees to foreign countries more often than they have in years. While Brazil, Russia, India and China continue to attract business travelers, there have also been an uptick in trips to Europe, McCormick says.

Businesses are also sending employees to more off-site meetings and conferences.

Group travel spending, which has been the slowest to recover because the trips require larger investments and advance planning, should rise by 6.5% to $124.5 billion this year, the group predicts.

Want more details? The GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States report is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing To view an abstract of this research, click here.

TSA Pre✓™ Promotional Toolkit

Downloadable Assets

Since the roll-out of TSA Pre✓™ GBTA has met with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) numerous times discussing ways to provide platforms that easily answer the many questions about TSA Pre✓™. TSA has listened to you and the concerns we have raised and created a Toolkit that allows you to take official material and use it in your company newsletters, send to your travelers and customers, etc!


TSA has new TSA Pre✓™ webpage. The site has Q&A, press releases, a link to the application page, a graphic illustrating the likelihood of getting TSA Pre✓™ and other useful tools. On this site you can also find the Trusted Traveler Program comparison chart, and you can click on the entry portal to the TSA Pre✓™ application.

Now, you have the resources to educate your travelers on one of 2014's hottest business travel programs.  

The Latest

I wanted to share some information on a variety of important topics to keep you up to date on the latest when it comes to government and business travel.

Aviation Security Tax Hike – Bad For Business: Congress more than doubled the security tax despite strong opposition from a diverse coalition including GBTA, consumer groups, other travel interests, airlines and key Congressional leaders; letters from hundreds of GBTA members; dozens of media interviews; and extensive communications with Congressional and committee staff. Approval of the budget deal means passengers will pay a billion more annually in travel taxes. Opponents argued that TSA should trim the fat from its budget, including better resource management and procurement, and increase PreCheck enrollment to reduce staffing and equipment needs. Another tax increase adds to taxes and costs, meaning businesses send fewer travelers on the road. U.S. businesses and the economy pay the price. Budget negotiators argued that the tax had not increased since 2002 even though TSA is screening many more passengers and current passenger taxes only fund 30 percent of TSA’s budget.

Special thanks to GBTA members who sent letters asking their representatives to oppose the tax increase. You sent a clear message to Congress that business travelers are paying attention. We need to continue fighting travel tax increases and supporting policies that make business travel safe, efficient and affordable.

GBTA: Yes to TSA Pre✓™ Expansion – No To Security Tax Increase 

Bad For Business: A Billion Dollars in New Travel Taxes 

Taxes and Fees on Travel Reaching the Tipping Point

GBTA Fights for Faster, Secure Business Travel: GBTA executive director and COO Mike McCormick joined other industry leaders in a Washington forum hosted by Airlines for America and the Air Line Pilots Association. The forum, with keynote remarks from TSA Administrator Pistole, promoted security practices that reduce travel hassles. GBTA will continue to work with TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to expand PreCheck and Global Entry enrollment  to reduce delays for busy, low-risk business travelers. GBTA continues to urge TSA to further increase the number of PreCheck lanes at airports, with 450 lanes at 107 airports in place today. MikeAtSecuringSkiesEvent  

View current/planned PreCheck locations:

TSA PreCheck Revised Site

PreCheck Airport Locations

Which Expedited Screening Program Should You Join?

Travel Taxes Hurt Economy And Jobs: Taxes on travel-related services increased by 58 percent in 2013, according to a GBTA Foundation report released last week. The annual study examines hotel lodging, car rentals and restaurant meal taxes in the top 50 U.S. destination cities – taxes regularly used to fund local projects unrelated to business travel and tourism. Mike McCormick emphasized, “Unfortunately, it’s not just state and local governments that see business travelers as their cash cow – the federal government is getting in the game. This week, Congress may consider a doubling of the TSA tax. Instead of driving TSA efficiencies that curb spending, Congress’ solution is to double the amount travelers pay. Road warriors strengthen the economy, create jobs and drive economic security. Yet governments insist on treating travelers like their ATM. These types of punitive travel taxes will ultimately push business travelers to stay home, and we all pay when governments take a short-sighted approach that raises the costs for business travel.”

GBTA Reveals Best and Worst Travel Taxes Acriss Top 50 U.S. Destinations

DOT Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection (ACACP) for Passenger Rights: GBTA participated in another meeting of the ACACP focused on recommendations to address passenger concerns, including reducing wait times in customs clearance lines, privacy rights, fare transparency, information about airline obligations and other travel topics. The airlines and the DOT are developing a glossary of travel terms to increase consistency across airline websites. DOT is improving and expediting its handling of complaints against airlines, and DOT is still considering proposals regarding the display of ancillary fees across all sales channels, including GDSs and to determine whether ticket agents, including OTAs, should be required to disclose they do not sell tickets for all airlines, if that is the case. GBTA will continue to represent member interests and work with the DOT, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and TSA to reduce travel hassles and costs, while ensuring secure travel.

GBTA Opposes Use OF Cell Phone Conversations During Flight: Although GBTA praised the FAA’s recent decision to allow greater use of some personal electronic devices during flight, GBTA opposed use of cell phones for calls during flights. “While it is important for business travelers to be connected, this presents some serious concerns. Given the close quarters of a plane, there is the potential for disruption and a loss of productivity. Occasionally, silence is golden,” said executive director and COO Mike McCormick.

Quicker Customs Clearance: With full support from GBTA, CBP is expanding Global Entry enrollment to speed up customs clearance for arriving international passengers and working with the airlines/airports at hub airports to install kiosks to expedite processing of regular passengers. CBP also enhanced its website reporting of wait times in customs clearance lines:

Wait Times at Airports and Borders

Contact me - Shane Downey - or Patty Higginbotham for additional information or visit the Government Relations website.  

Tell Your Elected Officials the Business Travel Industry Opposes Another Tax Increase

Thanks to all of you who have already sent letters opposing an increase in the aviation security tax via the Legislative Action Center. Unfortunately, with the confrontational, intense budget negotiations in Congress, the fee increase is still very much in the discussion.

GBTA has been communicating and meeting with key members of Congress to voice our position that an increase in fees means a decrease in business travel. But we need you, the voter back home and most importantly, the business travel professional to deliver this message to Congress.

Please take five minutes to visit the Legislative Action Center and send the message that the business travel industry does not support efforts to increase this tax.

The only way we can be successful is by engaging and advocating for the industry!

A New Way Of Seeing Things

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the GBTA Latin America Conference held at the Hilton Madero in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The event was a success with over 350 business travel professionals from ten Latin American countries and the United States attending the two day event.  LATAM group photo

The great novelist, Henry Miller once said that “one’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of seeing things.”  I have been traveling quite a bit, first to Prague and now to Argentina and during both of those trips I have been thinking that it’s important to our careers, to our profession and to the industry to be searching for, or at least be on the look-out for, a new way of seeing things.  Being able to attend both of these conferences has allowed me to look at our industry and the challenges we face in a new way. 

We assume that our challenges are regional, and many of them are, but as our companies become more global, so will our skill and mind set.  GBTA’s commitment as the leading authority on business travel management is only possible through collective voices, partnerships around the globe and the connection we have with our global counterparts. While we share commonalities in travel management techniques, each region around the world applies those same techniques in varied ways to fit both their culture and business approach.  It is through learning and hearing about those applications that we gain a better sense of our own techniques and knowledge set in order to approve upon them or just grow in ways we didn’t know possible.  Simply by being engaged, we will learn.

Door in Argentina

I say this again and again, but I am truly energized by the dialogue that ensues during these events.  I was especially struck by a panel in Argentina that comprised four chapter leaders from Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Mexico.  Their presentations discussed their geo/political landscape, economic challenges and how they intersect with their goals and objectives for the coming year and solutions to those challenges.  We need to look for fresh ways to share best practices with our affiliate and chapter networks outside our geographic footprint and for them to share with us.  There literally are no boundaries fencing us in as travel managers.  It’s not just a former Convention theme but a mantra we should all live by.  Attending events of any kind is another form of education.  I have learned so much from attending the GBTA Europe conference and GBTA Latin America conference and I know you would too.  I encourage all of you to attend a GBTA regional event and to be on the look -out for a new way to see things.

Fernando Montes, GBTA’s President of America Latina Argentina Chapter, said something in closing that has really stuck with me.  He said, “We give everything in us to make this come true.  Tomorrow we will feel empty.”  The empty feeling is not a sad one but rather one of being spent, where we have given our all and we have a strong sense of satisfaction.  

I know each and every one of you give all that you have to your jobs, families and to GBTA and I hope at the end of the day you feel a strong satisfaction from a day well spent.

Tell Congress You Oppose A Travel Tax Increase

Congress is once again considering an increase in the aviation security tax paid by passengers. As the Budget Committee tries to deal with the next round of mandatory cuts in agency budgets due to sequestration, any measure that brings in additional revenue or decreases spending is on the table.

We need you to let your senators and representative know that the business travel industry strongly opposes an increase – an additional $1.2 billion due to increases in the security segment fee on air fares. This is yet another tax or fee increase that will hit your bottom line. If your company’s travel costs increase, you may not be able to send as many employees on the road or end up selling your services to fewer. That is not good for your company, the business travel industry or the economy.

It is important to let your elected officials know that you want them to oppose a fee increase. Please send this Take Action letter as written, or feel free to include your own edits, and remember to either fill in the blanks or delete the sentence in the second paragraph that includes your profession and company.

You are the voice of the business travel industry. This is an opportunity for you to make that voice heard.

In the News: China Business Travel

Hello all! Although the recent re-election of one very high profile Governor in New Jersey, two closely watched races of the new Virginia Governor and the New York City mayor, and the much scrutinized ObamaCare rollout have dominated the headlines… the big story in our industry has been China.

We have received unprecedented news coverage lately about China’s business travel growth, and in particular that they are poised to surpass the United States as the world’s largest business travel market by 2016. Here is a sampling of this coverage (as prepared by our ever-diligent public relations lead, Colleen Lerro):

Hugo Martin of the Los Angeles Times wrote:

“As China’s economy continues to grow, so does their expected demand for business travel,” said Tad Fordyce, head of global solutions for Visa Inc.

The demand for air travel from China is expected to grow so fast in the next few years that several of China’s airports have had to double or triple their capacity, and the nation plans to build about 100 new airports over the next decade, said Joe Bates, vice president of research at GBTA.

Bloomberg Business Week reported:

Meanwhile, although less in the media spotlight, the market for domestic business travel in China is also growing quickly. According to a new forecast by the Global Business Travel Association, annual business travel spending within China is expected to reach $224 billion this year—up 14.3 percent from 2012.

And in the Miami Herald:

For years Americans have led the world in business travel spending. That is about to change.

The same story was told in many more publications including TourismReview.comAOL’s Gadling blogAssociations NowMeetings & ConventionsTravel News Digest and more.

All of these stories were driven by GBTA’s latest China BTI report. Twice a year, GBTA looks at economic trends and business spending to see where the business travel industry in China is headed. Some of the key findings:

  • Despite weaker than expected business travel growth in H1 of 2013, China should surpass the U.S. as the world’s most dominant business travel market as early as 2016.
  • China’s total business travel spending is forecast to increase by 14.3% in 2013 to $224 billion (RMB1,371 billion). The projected expansion of 17.2% in 2014 is more than twice the rate of the U.S.
  • Domestic business travel continues to outperform international outbound (IOB). In 2013, domestic travel spend should grow 14.3%, followed by another 17.2% in 2014.
  • Beijing Capital International airport is set to surpass longstanding incumbent, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, as the world’s busiest airport.

China is growing its business travel market faster than any other nation, and continues to close the gap on the U.S. as the largest business travel economy in the world. The surge in Chinese business travel spend has been driven by domestic and international outbound business travel, with expansion noted for both transient and group meetings and events travel.

(Want more details on this report? The GBTA BTI™ Outlook – China is free of charge to all GBTA Members by clicking here. Non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing Paul Yachnes. If you missed our latest quarterly US BTI report, you can also check that out here.)

Inside the Beltway

It’s been a busy and productive week for GBTA inside the Beltway as we work to continue to advance the interests of business travel.

I met with Governor of Virginia candidate Terry McAuliffe (D). His support of a long-range transportation infrastructure investment strategy has been widely praised by Republican and Democratic leaders alike. This issue, along with investment in education, have been the two primary planks in his election platform. This could be a model for other states and is good for business travel and business travelers alike.

I also had the honor of meeting again with Secretary Hillary Clinton as a follow up to her time together with us in San Diego. In addition to talking about the serious issues that we face here in Washington, I thanked her again for her outstanding presentation in San Diego. Her approval ratings in the post-Convention survey were off the charts! Although President Bill Clinton has been a GBTA favorite and is the only repeat general session keynote speaker in our history, I let her know she has bragging rights about her ratings around the house.

San Diego 2013 GBTA Convention

2013 GBTA Convention San Diego

Just yesterday, I met with Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security. Chairman Hudson has co-sponsored a bill (H.R. 1204) that is in full Committee now that would require TSA leadership to formally consult with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) on all aviation security related matters. As you may remember, for the past two years I have chaired the Risk-Based Security Subcommittee of ASAC. This bill would expand the role of ASAC and insure that the business travel industry will continue to have a strong voice in these matters in the future.

Rep. Hudson at GBTA's Legislative Summit earlier this year.

Rep. Hudson at GBTA’s Legislative Summit earlier this year.

Advocating on behalf of our members is an important part of what we do at GBTA, and I will continue to keep you posted about our various interactions and meetings on the Hill.

GBTA Membership: Value You Can Count On

I have been a member of GBTA since 2000.  I know that your membership dues are a solid investment in your career.  Over the years, I have participated as a member on the board of directors, as the chair of the Technology Committee, worked hard on getting my GLP (Global Leadership Professional Program) designation, and attended many, many conventions and other GBTA events.  I know personally that my membership in GBTA has helped me to perform my role at a high level, achieving my personal and professional goals. I am proud of each accomplishment but never take for granted those that stood beside me along the way, including my peers and this Association.  I am a strong believer in the power of networking, making important business connections that can help you get your job done successfully.  I am a strong believer in taking advantage of the educational opportunities that GBTA makes available to each and every member. 

GBTA allows (and encourages) you to connect with others in the global business travel industry online via the GBTA Hub and in-person at GBTA’s many events around the globe throughout the year. The GBTA Foundation provides you with cutting-edge industry research,   including time-sensitive research and the invaluable GBTA Global Business Travel Indexes, providing global industry forecast data. GBTA has become the leader in business travel education.  We offer unparalleled education opportunities offered by the GBTA Academy, which include certification opportunities, continuing education and on-going webinars bringing education opportunities to your desktop.

I recently met a member, Erin Wilks, from Bank of America, at the GBTA All Committee Summit.  We engaged in the most dynamic conversation about her role and how GBTA has helped her become more informed and educated in her career.  So please take a moment and listen to Erin talk about how she benefits from her GBTA membership.

Our global membership base connects you instantly with your peers around the world, enables you to  better understand the business of travel on an international level and collaborate with potential suppliers and buyers.  I am proud to be part of this dynamic organization but mostly because it connects me with people just like Erin Wilks.