The Business of Travel

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The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association


Latest US BTI™ Forecast Shows Positive Outlook for Business Travel, Although Concerns Remain

Every quarter GBTA looks at economic trends and business spending to see where the business travel industry is headed. Our latest report, 2013 Q3 GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States, finds that business travel spending is expected to rise across all categories of business travel in 2014.

Check out the video below for more on what to expect through the rest of this year and into 2014. Here’s a quick preview: The US GBTA BTI™ – a proprietary index of business travel activity – is poised to surpass its highest level since we created the index by the end of 2014.

 

While the forecast is very promising, the current government shutdown and threat of default have certainly put a damper on business travel industry sentiment. For more on how the shutdown has impacted our industry, check out our latest blog posts on the topic.You can also visit GBTA’s Legislative Action Center to tell Congress and the Administration to find a solution now.

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 Paul Yachnes. For more information, visit gbta.org/hub.


Day 14 of Government Shutdown

As the government shutdown enters into its third week and a quick resolution seems dim, we need you to communicate to your elected leaders the harmful impact on the business travel industry. Coupled with a possible default on the nation’s debt obligations we – the business travel community – need Congress and the Administration to find a solution now. Visit GBTA’s Legislative Action Center to send a message to Congress and the Administration. By getting involved, YOU can change the debate!

On Friday, October 11, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation held a hearing on “The Impacts of the Government Shutdown on Our Economic Security”. GBTA submitted comments for the record, which illustrated the importance of business travel and stressed the negative impact the shutdown is having on the industry.

Photo Credit: RJ Schmidt

Photo Credit: RJ Schmidt

Also on Friday, GBTA published results of a member survey on the impact of the shutdown. Here’s a rundown of media coverage on the survey results:


Six Ways the Government Shutdown Hurts the Business Travel Industry

GBTA revealed results of a member survey today showing the negative impact the government shutdown is having on the business travel industry. The survey found two-thirds are concerned the shutdown will negatively impact their business if it goes on for more than a week. As we near the end of week two, the anxiety only worsens. As of October 8 when the survey was conducted, 40 percent said the shutdown had already impacted them, their company and/or their company’s employees.

The top ways respondents are feeling the impact:

  1. Cancelled meetings or business opportunities in the United States
  2. Increased uncertainty about the economy
  3. Cancelled bookings
  4. Cancelled or delayed contracts with government agencies
  5. Staff reductions due to reduced business activities
  6. Increased concern among travelers about airline delays and cancellations due to possible reduced air traffic controllers

Want to know more specifics? The chart below shows examples of the impact of the shutdown provided by survey respondents.

Impact Example
Lost Employees “Our company has forced support/administrative employees to take leave until other direct client facing employees return to work.”“Some of our employees are government contractors who were issued a stop work order. They may not be paid when they get back.”
Cancelled Bookings “Loss of room night revenue due to cancelled meetings…and loss of room night revenue due to famed attractions being closed.”
Cancelled Meetings “We do installation for government suppliers and those meetings are cancelled because government orders are stopped for the time being.”
Delays in Passports and Visas  “Concern it may have impact on ability to get rush Visas, passports for our international travelers.”

 

U.S. business travel spending is a major driver of the global economy. Finally surpassing pre-recession levels, U.S. business travel spending is expected to reach $273 billion this year. The shutdown, however, is damaging productivity and leading to lost business opportunities and revenue that can’t be recovered. It is severely impacting the business travel industry and creating uncertainty. Enough is enough.  


Opening Doors All Over the World

I love to take pictures - specifically, pictures of doors.  I have entire collections of doorway photos from India, Germany, France, UK, and now Prague, Czech Republic.  I have always been fascinated by doors, probably because I always find myself wondering what lies behind and in places like Prague especially the history of what lies beyond the door.   Most of us probably share that curiosity.

The pictures below are from my trip to Prague last week, where I attended the GBTA Europe Conference.  The event highlighted what GBTA does best: bringing together many global perspectives on the business travel industry as we open the door to the future.  The keynote speaker, Gerd Leonhard, author and CEO of the Futures Agency, focused on how social, local, and mobile technology is changing the way in which we obtain, digest and use information.  He expects the future to be characterized by a “digital default,” a networked society where everyone is connected and 80% of Internet traffic is through mobile devices.  His was a fascinating discussion and provided much food for thought on how these issues will impact our industry. 

door2 door4  door6

We are encouraged not to lose sight of the past or the present.  But more importantly, we can’t lose sight of the future.  Focusing on the future begs us to re-imagine what might or can be done.   An essential part of our role as travel managers is to re-imagine better ways to do what we do.  We should always be trying to figure out new ways of learning and growing -- for our companies, for our profession, and for ourselves.  The GBTA conference featured presenters from Google to IKEA, each with a different perspective.  These various points of view certainly pushed me to think about different ways in which I do my job and how I might handle new challenges as they arise.  Some dialogue may spur controversy but listening and learning all points of view helps us craft better outcomes.

To me, the conference represented the opening of doors.  I learned about things I didn’t know, and I thought about things I did know – or thought I knew – in different ways.  The more proverbial doors I opened and the more people I met, the more I realized both how different and how similar we are, regardless of where we live.  With this conference and its other activities, GBTA is opening doors all over the globe, enabling us to interact with and learn from our peers. As we come to know each other, the world becomes a smaller place – but not in a negative way.   We are getting closer rather than moving apart.  As an association, GBTA is better united than divided.  As an industry, we are better working together and learning from each other because we all face the same challenges. 

While at the conference, I had my own small world story.  I spoke to one of our attendees, Elizabeth Aston from Amadeus.  She is from Madrid but spent some time in Virginia, not far from where I live.  She mentioned that she had a close friend who had a sailing school in Irvington, Virginia.  I was familiar with that area so I decided to ask my Dominion colleague who is big into sailing if he knew Elizabeth’s friend. Low and behold, he knew Elizabeth’s friend, Arabella, very well.  So, we decided to take a picture together and send it to her. 

Elizabeth and I posing for a photo in Prague.

Elizabeth and I posing for a photo in Prague. 

So, here I am in Prague with Elizabeth who is from Spain and we take a photo to send to her friend in Virginia.  Now I plan to meet Arabella on my next trip to Irvington, Virginia. The world is small, but in a very good way.

We may not always know what lies beyond the doors we enter, but we are best prepared when we have taken the time to learn from one another. Below are some other photos from Prague.  It's such a lovely city.

  prague 10prague 11prague 12prague14


The Latest

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

U.S. Government Shutdown: GBTA Warns Business Travel is High Risk Bargaining Chip. In interviews with Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and other leading media, Mike McCormick warned of lost business opportunities, lost revenue and lost productivity, “America’s economy can’t grow without a reliable system supporting business travel. U.S. business travel spending is expected to reach more than $273 billion this year, finally surpassing pre-recession levels. But a government shutdown will have rippling effects through the economy and severely impact the business travel industry. Every business trip cancelled results in permanently lost travel industry revenues, decreased future employment rates and lost economic benefit to our country.” GBTA Press Release

GBTA-TSA Partnership on NEW PreCheck Application Process: Kudos to the Northern Virginia, Virginia, Ohio Valley and New York City chapters for their collaboration with TSA on the October opening of first two PreCheck application centers at Dulles International Airport/Northern VA and the Indianapolis International Airport. TSA made presentations at the VBTA Education Day and an NYCBTA event in late September, and is scheduling education/media opportunities with other chapters as well. GBTA is working closely with the PreCheck offices at TSA headquarters to ensure local chapters are engaged in the opening of additional PreCheck application centers. Additional centers will open this fall. Under the NEW process, applicants go to the centers to submit fingerprints, a short application and an $85 fee. Once the background check is complete, applicants receive PreCheck membership for five years. Fast and secure checkpoint screening is the answer to airport delays and missed flights. Learn more about the application process.

GBTA Speaks: NextGen is Essential. In a Washington, D.C. event hosted by the Aerospace Industries Association, and well attended by media and key congressional staff, Mike McCormick stressed the importance of air traffic control modernization – NextGen – for efficient, safe air travel for busy business travelers, saying “America’s businesses send their employees on more than seven million flights each month. Efficient, safe air travel enables invaluable face-to-face meetings with clients and partners, ensuring businesses can compete effectively in the global marketplace. NextGen is essential to reduce flight delays and system slowdowns that disrupt air travel and business opportunities, and slow economic growth.” GBTA and its members have long supported air traffic control modernization, including sufficient funding for continued NextGen implementation despite threatened budget cuts. Congratulations to the NYCBTA for its excellent op-ed in Crain's New York strongly supporting NextGen, particularly improvements at crowded New York area airports to eliminate bottlenecks during peak flight periods. Mike McCormick speaking at AIA event on NextGen

Mike McCormick speaking at AIA event on NextGen 

FAA Report on PEDs: After more than a year, a 28-member industry-government advisory committee sent a report to the FAA recommending procedures that airlines can implement to ensure increased, safe use of PEDs during flight. Although the report remains confidential and likely won’t be released soon due to the Government shutdown, media reports that the procedures would allow passengers to use e-readers, iPods and laptops for some purposes at altitudes below 10,000 feet, but cell phone calls and Internet use remain prohibited. No information on if or when FAA will act on the recommendations. More to come - stay tuned.

GBTA-Car Rental Tax Coalition: GBTA met with the lead sponsor of the bill to prohibit additional car rental taxes at the state and local level, and continues to work with a diverse coalition to gain sponsors for the bill. Although it’s difficult to predict when another hearing on the bill will be set or if the bill will come up for a vote, GBTA members should urge their representatives to support this common sense approach to reduce unnecessary travel taxes that don’t benefit travelers in any way, but increase travel costs significantly. Take Action.

Reducing USG Travel Spend: With all Congress is trying to accomplish this fall, bills to reduce government travel spending even further are not moving through the legislative process. GBTA will continue to work with travel stakeholders to closely monitor these bills and take appropriate action. Although government agencies must implement management tools to spend travel dollars wisely, blunt budget cuts and severe travel restrictions are short sighted and reduce government effectiveness.

Aviation Emissions Taxes - Global Action: For two weeks in late September and early October, 191 governments come together to address aviation environmental issues at the International Civil Aviation Organization meeting in Montreal. Among other proposals or “global market-based measures,” participants will consider development of a global trading scheme for greenhouse gas emissions. Current thinking is that a global approach will be agreed upon by 2015 or 2016, with implementation in 2020. GBTA supports global approaches but continues to oppose unilateral tax schemes like the European Union emissions tax imposed, but later suspended for non EU airlines, on all international flights.    


The Shutdown and What it Means for Business Travel

On Monday night, Federal agencies began the process of shutting down non-essential governmental operations. The length of the shutdown is unknown. In FY 1996, there were two shutdowns - one of five days and another of 21. To date, House Republicans have insisted on changes to the Affordable Care Act as a condition to continued governmental operations. The Democratic-led Senate and White House have opposed those conditions.

The shutdown will have impacts on business travel. Among others, these include:

  • Cancelled travel by federal employees and contractors - The most obvious and immediate impacts will be travel cancellations by federal employees. In addition, travel by federal contractors will likely be curtailed or cancelled.
  • Passports and Visas - While the processing of passports and visas should not be impacted in the short-term, a long-term delay may impact their issuance. In addition, passport services housed in a shuttered governmental building are likely to cease. During the shutdown in 1995-1996, 20,000 to 30,000 visa application per day went unprocessed as well as 200,000 U.S passport applications.
  • FAA - While air traffic controllers will remain on the job, safety inspectors will be furloughed.
  • AMTRAK - Train service will continue. However, a long-term shutdown will exhaust AMTRAK's operating account and will lead to a shutdown of services.
  • Customs/Border Inspectors - Border agents and inspectors will remain on the job.
  • NextGen - FAA's planning and implementation of NextGen programs have ceased.
  • PreCheck - It is not yet clear how DHS will process PreCheck applications although they will certainly be delayed.

GBTA issued a statement on the Federal Government shutdown today where Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick said, “America’s economy can’t grow without a reliable system supporting business travel. U.S. business travel spending is expected to reach more than $273 billion this year, finally surpassing pre-recession levels. But a government shutdown will have rippling effects through the economy and severely impact the business travel industry. Every business trip cancelled results in permanently lost travel industry revenues, decreased future employment rates and lost economic benefit to our country. Enough is enough. The United States must remain open for business.” Read the full statement.


As the Clock Strikes Midnight, Will the U.S. Government Shut Down?

Reports are the Republican Leadership has been meeting this morning to see how to move forward if the Senate, as expected, rejects the House passed measure that would keep the government open until Dec. 15, but would also delay Obamacare for one year and repeal the medical-device tax. The federal government shuts down at midnight if the Senate and House cannot agree on a funding bill.

The House could pass a clean continuing resolution, or CR, with Democratic support. House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) would be compelled to find roughly 120 Republicans in favor of this approach, to ensure that the majority of the GOP conference is on board.

If the House Republicans decide it wants a fight, then Boehner could ping a continuing resolution back to the Senate with additional language to peel back the Affordable Care Act and possibly other policies that might ride alongside, including delaying the Obamacare individual mandate, repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board or sending the same bill they passed early Sunday morning back to the Senate.

One other option that has been discussed includes canceling health-insurance subsidies for some government employees, including members of Congress and their staff. But both parties have expressed resistance to this measure, mainly because low-paid aides would be forced to pay thousands of dollars more for their health care and it’s unlikely, this would appease the Conservatives.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would not accept any changes to health care policy as part of a CR.

House Republicans have the procedural ability to introduce legislation and bring it to the floor in the same day — authority that needs to be renewed Tuesday. So if there is some compromise agreement with Senate Democrats and the White House, the House could move quickly to pass it.


Signs Point to a Shutdown

Update (September 27, 4:45 p.m.) -  This afternoon, the Senate passed a 2014 continuing resolution (H J Res 59) to fund the government through November 15, at an annualized post-sequester rate of $986.3 billion (almost level with FY13). The Senate's CR moved the end date to November 15 from December 15 and removed House language that would defund the Affordable Care Act.

This weekend, the House will take up the Senate CR. Some predict the House will add another ACA amendment (possibly removing health care contributions for Members and staff) to the CR and send it back to the Senate. That bill could pass in the Senate. 

Media reports the House is considering a one-week CR without anomalies to avoid a partial government shutdown as negotiations continue.

More to come.

Original Post: 

Signs point to a shutdown – how long remains to be seen. House Republican leadership staff are saying their expectation is to receive the CR from the Senate with the ACA funding in place sometime over the weekend. If they receive Sunday, they anticipate taking up the CR Monday, probably attaching an amendment repealing the ACA's individual mandate and sending it back to the Senate.

Should that occur, the Senate would need two to four days to take up the House's version, remove the individual mandate repeal, then send back to the House. At that point, its unclear what the House will do with the Senate's CR, pass it, and send it to the President.

Under that scenario, a shutdown would occur until at least the 3rd. It's still very fluid, but that's a real possibility. capbuildingpic

As with the last time this came close, passports and visas for sure will not be processed. According to a CRS report, in 1996, "approximately 20,000-30,000 applications by foreigners for visas reportedly went unprocessed each day; 200,000 U.S. applications for passports reportedly went unprocessed; and U.S. tourist industries and airlines reportedly sustained millions of dollars in losses."

Obviously, travel of non-essential federal employees will be cancelled and, per an OMB shutdown memo, federal employees on temporary travel will be expected to return home. And, of course, federal contractors will cancel travel.


Gridlock-nado

Earlier this week, CNN's Jim Acosta coined the term Gridlock-nado (ala the SciFy movie Sharknado) to describe the budget mess. Just like the movie, it’s crazy-bad theatre.  The House Republicans are using this fall's fiscal showdown to defund and delay Obamacare. They also announced plans to make a series of demands of the White House in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in mid-October.  But also say they don’t want o shut the government down. Meanwhile, President Obama said that he will not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling. "What I will not do is to create a habit, a pattern, whereby the full faith and credit of the United States ends up being a bargaining chip." 

capitol hill

Here is what we know (pulled from an excerpt from NBC’s Chuck Todd), the House sent its bill to the Senate. The Senate will send back a “clean-ish” continuing resolution to the House that strips away the measure defunding the president’s health care law. Then the House will send something back to the Senate that has SOMETHING to do with the health care. But when does this ping pong happen? The question turns to timing, especially if Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) mounts a filibuster in the Senate. After being challenged by House Republicans, Cruz and his allies might have no choice other than to wage some sort of filibuster -- perhaps not by traditional means but using procedural tricks. But such a delay could allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to jam House Speaker John Boehner. Chuck Schumer, in an interview to air on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” this morning, says any “jamming” of Boehner would be on Cruz and his delay tactics. Schumer also says there are behind-the-scenes negotiations taking place between House GOP leaders and Senate Dem leaders, so that once the Cruz show is over, they can act before midnight Sept. 30. Schumer seemed optimistic that a shutdown will be averted for now, but he also acknowledged the next test will be on debt ceiling.

It certainly does seem to be playing out like a television drama, except that this has real impacts on business travel. The White House Office of Management and Budget is asking federal agencies to prepare for the possibility of a government shutdown at the end of the month. In a memo to department heads, OMB Director Sylvia Burwell says “prudent management” requires agencies to be ready for a lapse in funding after Sept. 30, when the current government funding measure expires.

Taking notice, TMC’s have begun to issue warnings of Flight delays caused by air-traffic controller furloughs as the Federal Aviation Administration considers sending workers home without pay during the next fiscal year amid a funding shortfall. FAA officials have told aviation industry officials and lawmakers that a new round of furloughs will be needed to close a budget gap of as much as $700 million in the fiscal year starting 1 October. The furloughs raise the prospect of a repeat of the flight delays caused in April by traffic-control staffing shortages at U.S. airports. Read the full story at Bloomberg.

GBTA will continue to monitor and keep you posted on these topics.


Volunteerism at Its Finest

Welcome to my first official post on the newly created GBTA blog!  This will be my main form of communication with you.  Since all of us get so many emails every day I thought it would be great to create one central place for you to be able to hear from me and others about all the great things going on at GBTA.

Speaking of things going on at GBTA, last week we hosted our annual All Committee Summit.  This is a perfect example of volunteerism at its finest.  We had a record turnout with over 80 members flying into Alexandria for two and half days of meetings, updates and presentations.  The event kicked off on Monday as we gathered into chilly conference rooms at the Hotel Monaco with a very productive Committee Chair meeting where we brainstormed pressing issues such as open booking, managed travel and the concept of the “empowered” traveler.  We also heard from GBTA staff members in each department about the hard work they are doing.

The following day we broke out into groups to develop priorities and project lists for 2014.  The committee chairs also brought back the brainstorming ideas discussed the day before. There is a great deal of hard work that goes into creating the goals of each committee for the following year.  I have worked on and chaired the Technology committee and know the amount of time and effort it takes to make the committees successful.  So, thank you for all of your hard work!

A special shout out to the new board committee liaisons and long time GBTA members, Rita Visser and Denise Truso for their help and guidance with all the GBTA committees. Their participation is instrumental in keeping the board briefed on the great work of this very dedicated volunteer group. 

And in order to continue to foster the ongoing and open communication between committees, a new group called “All Committee Group” will be created on the GBTA Hub.  The group will be open to all committee members so they can view all of the presentations developed at the Summit and collaborate with the other committees.

This was a great couple of days. I met some new people, reconnected with others and heard about so many exciting projects and goals for the coming year.  I continue to feel energized and hopeful about the projects and milestones we plan to achieve at GBTA.   Again, I would like to thank all of the Committees and companies that allow this level of volunteer participation on behalf of GBTA.

As always, please reach out to me with any questions or feedback.