The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

TSA’s Pistole Coming to Convention

I was very pleased when U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John S. Pistole accepted our invitation to be a featured speaker at this year’s 2014 GBTA Convention in Los Angeles. Of all the agencies and government officials the GBTA Government Relations team deals with, it’s the TSA officers that interact with you and your travelers on a daily basis. So who better than the head of the TSA to come speak to you? 

TSA Administrator Pistole Talks with Mike McCormick at GBTA's 2011 Convention in Denver

TSA Administrator Pistole Talks with Mike McCormick at GBTA's 2011 Convention in Denver

As frequent readers know, we have been very supportive of PreCheck and other expedited screening programs designed to get the known traveler through security more efficiently. In fact, we believe these known traveler programs or risk-based screening is a more reasonable approach than to take scarce resources to pay for more officers to screen all passengers in the same cookie-cutter mold.

Administrator Pistole has been a champion in this regard and PreCheck has grown tremendously under his watch. But with growth of a successful program comes congestion issues and confusion. I hope you will join this Center Stage event as well as the joint Aviation and Government Relations Committee education session on expedited passenger screening programs to learn more about how the travel experience can be improved for the business traveler.

Lessons In Greatness

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend GBTA’s The Masters Program in Washington, D.C. It was a fantastic chance to connect with some wonderful people in the industry – both those that I’ve known for years and others who I just met. The event kicked off with a dinner and remarks from Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA).   The Senator shared her background and family history in politics as well as her efforts supporting business travel in her roles serving on various committees.

Sen Landrieu Donna Kelliher - DSC_9990

It was so refreshing to hear a politician who truly understands the importance of the business travel industry. “You can do a lot on the internet,” she said, “but there is never going to be a complete substitute for shaking hands, looking each other in the eye and doing business.” Amen. On day two we were treated to a presentation by international bestselling author Jim Collins who shared insights from his many years of research on what distinguishes great organizations from the merely good and what it takes to excel as a leader in this industry. Listening to Jim and the dialogue he created was incredibly energizing.

Jim Collins - Question from audience - DSC_0456

One thing Jim said that really struck a chord with me was that greatness and great leadership is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline. It is so important for us as we strive to be leaders in our industry or our company to remember that every day and in everything we do, we have the choice to be great. We have the choice to fill our work with passion and enthusiasm driving success.

The day continued with so many great executives sharing their experiences and perspectives on important industry topics and debating what will be the next big innovation to disrupt the industry.

I was fortunate to get to moderate an interview with Pamela Codispoti, American Express Executive Vice President and General Manager. Pam is an incredibly accomplished woman who has worked at American Express since 1993 and now manages all aspects of product strategy, product innovation, business development, digital solutions, prospect and customer marketing – quite the responsibility! She’s also the mom to two young twin boys.

Pamela Codispoti from American Express and Donna Kelliher - DSC_0880

It was great getting to chat with Pam and learn about looking at the business traveler from a different perspective than many on the travel management side are used to. She talked about the changing dynamics of the frequent traveler as millennials now comprise 50 percent of the workforce and more road warriors expect the same type of experience they enjoy in consumer life. She said it is important for American Express to think of the end user first and create all of our solutions with their ever-evolving needs in mind.

I find events like these are a great way to hit refresh on your energy and passion as you come away with so many new ideas and concepts to put into practice in your career. I encourage you all to look for opportunities to network with your colleagues and learn from others.

Guest Post: Radius Travel, Globally Certified

By Chris McAndrews, SVP, Marketing & Partnerships, Radius Travel

1. The world is still a big place.

2. The same rules don’t apply everywhere.

3. For all other issues, see Rule #2.

The world may be getting smaller, but it is not getting any simpler, and the scope of knowledge required of global travel professionals only continues to increase. Data analytics, risk management, and strategic business planning are just a sample of the 45 issues that the new GBTA Global Travel Professional™ certification test covers. It is an in-depth program that requires preparation, testing, and ongoing recertification credits.

Our mission at Radius Travel is to make global work. Everything we do is about being experts and advocates for our customers and creating tailored programs for them. That’s what drove our decision to have our entire sales and account management teams get the GTP™ certification. Radius Travel will be the first global travel management company to achieve this distinction.


How did our teams prepare for the exam? Well, the best preparation is experience, and we have a lot of that. GBTA requires a minimum of three years of business travel-related experience to be eligible for GTP™ certification. Then, using the exam prep resources available on GBTA’s website, our people readied themselves for the test.

The GTP™ certification is more than an added assurance that Radius sales and account management is fully up-to-speed on the skills and issues vital to our business. It’s also a way to support and advance the professional development of the Radius professionals who serve our customers every day. After all, making global work is all about people – our customers who lead their companies to successful travel programs, and our own people at Radius who are dedicated to the specific goals and needs of those customers.

Weather or Not

I was invited to speak at the Wisconsin Business Travel Association’s Education Day in early January, just as the polar vortex was engulfing 26 states in wind-chill warnings or watches.  Wisconsin, of course, is a state known for its cold weather; it was in the low teens when I arrived, and the wind chill made it feel well below zero.

Icebergs in Wisconsin

Icebergs in Wisconsin

The WBTA’s Education Day was taking place about an hour north of Milwaukee in Kohler.  As the name suggests, the village of Kohler is named for the plumbing and bath manufacturer.  The meeting was at The American Club, which once provided housing, meals, and recreational facilities for immigrant employees of Kohler who could not afford housing.  The American Club presents a very striking first impression with its Tudor architecture, soaring roof peaks, and slate tile.  The setting was beautiful -- and warm.

Door at the American Club

Door at the American Club

I arrived and met with my gracious hosts: Emily Wright and Jesse Funk. We gathered for a group reception where I was able to connect with new people and reconnected with many in my professional network– a great way to end a ‘very long travel day.’

Jesse Funk, me and Emily Wright

Jesse Funk, me and Emily Wright

I initially wasn’t planning on staying for the whole session, but soon realized I needed to make some schedule adjustments to allow me to stay for the whole day and I am so happy that I did.  I heard from many wonderful volunteers on subjects ranging from airport updates and professional growth opportunities to trends in managed travel.

As you know from many of my other postings and communications, volunteerism is something close to my heart.  As GBTA’s President, I am trying to understand volunteering from many perspectives —not only how to recruit and retain volunteers, but also factors that cause volunteers to disengage.  GBTA is one of many organizations that regularly involves and depends on its volunteers; to be most effective, we need to understand how best to support those individuals.  

So much of what we talk about in travel management is the logistics of getting from point A to point B in a safe and cost efficient manner, when travel is ultimately about meeting new people and seeing what impact they will have on our lives and what impact we will have on theirs.  I say that because I have had so many wonderful experiences when I have traveled, and Wisconsin was no exception. While I was grabbing dinner at the airport, there was a gate change.  There was one young man, an off-duty military man sitting by himself reading a book in the original (agent-less) gate area.  I asked if there was a gate change, but he said he didn’t know.  I told him to come with me, as he said he didn’t travel much.  We checked the monitors and headed to our new gate.  On the way to the new gate, he told me that he was traveling to DC as a bone marrow donor.  We got to the gate just as they announced the final boarding call.  His assigned seat was next to me on the plane, so we were able to talk about his military experience and travels around the world on deployments.  It was a moment like many others I have experienced in my travels.  The encounter with Matt at the gate in Milwaukee was meant to be and this great American hero is now a bone marrow donor doing what soldiers do – giving of themselves. 

This was supposed to be a quick trip to Wisconsin.  I was planning on speaking and then returning to DC right after.  But instead I extended my trip so I could attend the full day session. In doing so, I met wonderful people, learned a few new things, and was in the right place at the right time to help an off-duty military man catch his flight to be a bone marrow donor.  I believe this is the essence of business travel: the opportunity for both planned and spontaneous meetings that have both professional and personal benefits.

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.