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The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association


Week in Review

The week began with the news outlets abuzz about winter storm Juno that was making its way from the Midwest United States to the Northeast on Monday with the prospects of dumping feet of snow in areas around Boston and NYC. According to USA Today, about 15 percent of the nation’s flights were grounded Tuesday morning as a result of the storm. USA Today did a follow Wednesday up covering how airlines were restarting their schedules following the storm.

Also on Monday, GBTA released a study showing sustainable business travel initiatives on the rise in Europe. In fact, the majority (57 percent) of European-based companies have sustainability initiatives written into their company’s travel policy – a significant increase from 39 percent in 2012.

While last week Marriott backed off its plan to block WiFi signals, the FCC still weighed in this week. The FCC said blocking wireless hotspots is illegal. The agency’s official statement says that blocking an individual's personal hotspot, as hotels and convention centers have done, is against the law and subject to fines.

WiFi

In support of GBTA's position, Airlines for America made a passionate plea against a hike in PFC charges on their blog this week supported by a list of facts they say often get left out of the argument. Talking about taxes and fees and airlines brings us back to fuel surcharges again this week. Air Asia made a big announcement this week abolishing fuel surcharges on its flights fares according to Business Traveller.

Hotelmarketing.com focused on mobile this week. In one article they highlight a report that asserts that travel companies must fully integrate digital channels into their overall business strategies in order to better engage with consumers. Another article calls Google the biggest threat in mobile for hotels and airlines as the company continues to release new travel service features.

Great news for those that like to always be connected: the Airline Passenger Experience Association tells us 2014 was a banner year for high speed in-flight WiFi, with such services expected to become increasingly available in 2015.  The Economist tells us how to stay connected and get the most out of your smartphone on international business trips.

Finally, The Business Journals’ Laura Stack tells us four common business travel blunders and how you can avoid them.


Promoting Safe & Secure Travel

Advocating for improved airport screening was a major part of GBTA’s 2014 Government Relations Agenda. Recent travel and trade stats released from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) showed great strides made in this effort last year.

GBTA supports risk-based, intelligence-driven aviation security that is safe, fast and efficient. Inefficient procedures reduce business travel due to the “hassle factor” and hurt the economy. Time is money for business travelers. Business travelers support the expansion of TSA’s Pre✓® to multiple lanes at all domestic airports. With millions expected to enroll in the program, TSA must focus on the infrastructure necessary to expand at airport checkpoints. Additionally, for this program to succeed, it must push enrollment beyond federal offices to the business community.

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According to a DHS press release:

  • This past year, 120 new TSA Pre✓® lanes were added and TSA Pre✓® operations began at 11 new airports. Today, TSA Pre✓® has more than 600 lanes at 125 U.S. airports.
  • TSA had a busy year in 2014, screening 653,487,270 passengers (nearly 1.8 million per day), which is 14,781,480 more passengers than 2013.
  • TSA screened more than 443 million checked bags and nearly 1.7 billion carry-on bags.
  • Nationwide, fewer than one percent (0.32) of passengers waited in a line longer than 20 minutes.
  • The TSA Pre✓® application program, which began in December 2013, enrolled over 800,000 travelers in 2014. In addition to these enrollments, CBP trusted travelers — those enrolled in other trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI — are also automatically eligible for TSA Pre✓®.
  • Over 40 percent of passengers screened received some form of expedited screening in 2014.

More than a million jobs could be created over the next decade if the nation took a larger share of the international travel market. Reduced wait times and increased U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff are essential, particularly at key arrival airports. More from the DHS press release:

  • CBP officers processed more than 374 million travelers at air, land, and sea ports of entry in 2014, an increase of four percent from the previous year.
  • More than 107 million international travelers arrived at U.S. airports, an increase of 4.7 percent from the previous year.
  • Despite the continued increase in international air travelers, average wait times were down 13 percent at the top 10 airports. At John F. Kennedy International Airport, the airport with the most passenger volume in the United States, the average wait time in 2014 was down 28 percent from 2013.

GBTA’s 2014 Government Relations Agenda also talked about the Global Entry program, which allows vetted members to bypass long immigration lines, calling it an unqualified success and a model for expedited screening and resource allocation. Continued expansion of the program is essential for increased international business travel.

Well, the DHS release showed growth in Global Entry as well in 2014:

  • An additional 1.25 million people enrolled in the agency’s Trusted Traveler Programs (Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST) in 2014 to bring total enrollment to more than 3.3 million members.
  • Global Entry, the agency’s largest program with more than 1.7 million members, is operational at 42 U.S. airports and 12 Preclearance locations; these locations serve 99 percent of incoming travelers to the United States. CBP added nine Global Entry kiosk locations in 2014 and enrolled its one millionth member in NEXUS, a program providing expedited travel between the U.S. and Canada.
  • In January 2014, CBP expanded Preclearance operations to a 15th location, Abu Dhabi International Airport.
  • More than 16 million travelers went through one of CBP’s Preclearance locations in Canada, Ireland, the Caribbean, and the United Arab Emirates in 2014, accounting for 15 percent of total international air travel that year.

As you can see, we have made great progress on improving and expanding access to expedited travel for business travelers. But it is a constant battle to improve and expand these. GBTA will continue the fight, but I wanted to pass along this good news.


Stuck at the Airport? Quick Survival Tips

Stuck at the airport? Yesterday’s winter storm was expected to impact more than 40 million travelers. Make sure you’re fully prepared with some of these invaluable tips in case you find yourself stuck at the airport:

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  • Keep Your Cell Ready – As soon as your flight cancellation is announced, quickly ring the airline or your travel agent as booking a new flight can prevent you from getting stuck at the airport in the first place.
  • Get A Business Lounge Day Pass – Many airports now offer one-day passes to their business lounges for a nominal fee, which means access to a business center equipped with desks, dataports, computers, wireless hot spots, or even old-fashioned faxes. Some lounges even have showers.
  • Look Beyond The Gate – If you don’t need to camp out right at your gate, consider relocating to one of the less busy eateries in the terminal, where you’re more likely to find an available electrical outlet.
  • Pamper Yourself – If you’ve got the time and money, most major airports have reasonably priced services for massages, facials and haircuts to help the time go by a little more pleasantly.
  • Stock Up On Supplies – Most airport concessions close before midnight, so if you’re stuck overnight, make sure you stock up on enough food and drink to last the night.
  • Practice Safe Napping – If you have to take a nap, put your feet atop the laptop bag.  Stick cash and credit cards in your shoe or in the pocket of your pants. When you do leave your temporary workspace, make sure to check the area in case you forget a coat or hat.
  • Network – Getting cancelled can actually mean a great opportunity to network and make connections with fellow business travelers. Carry extra business cards just in case.

Have you tried any of these tips before?  Share with us some of your experiences handling flight cancellations or delays at airports.  Stay warm everyone!


Week In Review

Do you have a favorite airline for business trips? Forbes shares the best airlines for business travelers in 2015.

Cuba is making a splash in the news lately with the half-century U.S. embargo officially lifted last week. GBTA put together a blog post covered in this Successful Meetings article with background materials and links to information to help you better understand these recent developments and the potential impact to your company. Joe Sharkey of The New York Times writes that while Cuba may be opening, business travel remains limited. The Economist’s Gulliver business travel blog agrees adding that the clear win for business travelers in this scenario is closer ties to Cuba’s Latin American neighbors.

Joseph Fischer writes in 4Hoteliers that hotels in major European cities need to be vigilant and ready as it’s better to be safe than sorry in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. According to the Washington Post, some members of Congress were sounding were sounding alarm bells even before the attacks about Islamic State militants using Western passports to enter the United States in an attempt to undermine the Visa Waiver Program. The benefits outweigh the fears though, the editorial board says, as this program isn’t about letting America’s guard down and has in fact compelled other countries to improve their security game and share more information with the United States.

Last week, USA Today covered GBTA’s quarterly U.S. business travel forecast showing business travel is rebounding into record territory as U.S. companies are projected to spend more than $310 billion on business travel in 2015. The report also says plummeting fuel prices just may lead to lower airfares in 2015. For example, Virgin Australia announced it has cut some long haul air fares, partly because of falling fuel prices. It remains to be seen if others will follow suit.

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The sharing economy continues to move forward. According to BTN, Airbnb bookings are on track to outpace the largest hotel companies within a few years, although studies also state they are unlikely to have significant market share in the business travel space anytime soon.

What road warrior wouldn’t want to make their life a little easier? Joe Brancatelli of The Business Journals gives us 9 business-travel tips that will make life on the road in 2015 a lot easier.


Travel to Cuba Rules & Information Released

Earlier this month, the Obama Administration announced plans to ease restrictions on a 50 year-old embargo with Cuba. The following are background materials and links to information to help you better understand these recent developments and the potential impact to your company.

On January 15, 2015 the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) and U.S Department of Treasury released Fact Sheets and FAQs on the new rules for companies and travelers seeking to travel to Cuba:

U.S. Departments Of Commerce and Treasury Fact Sheet
U.S Department Of The Treasury Frequently Asked Questions

Department of Commerce Secretary Pritzker released the following statement: “The regulations published today are an important first step toward increased engagement that will expand our economic relationship and strengthen our people to people connections with Cuba,” said Secretary Pritzker. “Today’s actions, which are being taken in coordination with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, give legal effect to the historic policy changes that President Obama announced on December 17. Specifically, our regulations will change export policy and authorize the flow of certain goods and services to Cuba without a license, to spur private sector activity and encourage entrepreneurship in Cuba. These are smart changes in America’s outdated policy that will help the Cuban people realize an improved standard of living, greater economic independence, and increased prosperity.”

Moving swiftly, US eases travel and trade rules on Cuba WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration, following through on its declaration of warming ties with Cuba, has eased travel restrictions and opened a wide range of new export opportunities with the communist island.

Impact on Business and Leisure Travel: Most U.S. travelers still will be required to go on supervised group trips, but now virtually any U.S. company or organization can offer such trips without the paperwork and inspections that discouraged past expansion of travel to Cuba. Some tour operators, already seeing unprecedented interest in legal travel to Cuba, expect some tourists to simply ignore the restrictions. American companies also now will be permitted to export telephones, computers and Internet technology, and to send supplies to private Cuban firms. However, Cuban authorities have said nothing about the restrictions they might impose on U.S. products entering a country that has long frustrated foreign investors with bureaucratic obstacles and tapped-out infrastructure.

Airlines Interested: Commercial flights between the two nations are still some time away. Before airlines offer routine service from one country to another, the two governments must agree on the terms in a treaty. United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways have all expressed an interest in flying to the island nation.

GBTA will continue to monitor and advise the membership on this issue. Don’t hesitate to contact GBTA with any questions or thoughts.

#GBTAtrending Tell us if this issue is important to you or your company:

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*This post was originally sent as an email to GBTA membership.*


Advocacy Matters

Before we embark on what is sure to be an eventful 2015 in the business travel industry, I wanted to take a moment to both reflect on the critical advocacy issues of 2014 and let you know the next steps in the process of setting our agenda for the coming year.

Last year, both new and familiar issues kept us highly engaged as we fought against cellphones on planes, pushed back against unnecessary taxes on travelers, fought for a more efficient Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and implemented better airline customer protections.

The Legislative Symposium in June saw more than 100 GBTA members – backed up by thousands of letters, emails and district meetings from the GBTA Chapter Challenge – hit the Hill running in opposition to a potentially large increase of taxes on the business traveler. The House of Representatives unanimously agreed to GBTA’s argument and voted to stop TSA from removing the cap on charges related to the 9/11 Aviation Security Fee. In December, the Senate also voted to unanimously pass H.R. 5462, reinstating a cap on TSA security fees at $11.20 per round trip instead of the potential $30.00 tax.

Legislative Symposium 2014

Legislative Symposium 2014

While GBTA is a strong supporter of TSA’s improvement of its screening programs, GBTA has often cited the need for TSA to reform its practices in lieu of increasing taxes and fees on the traveling public. Congress agreed, passing several bills at the end of the year including the before-mentioned cap reinstatement, a bill to transform TSA’s technology acquisition processes and a bill to permanently establish the private sector advisory board – the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC). Note: GBTA has been appointed to two consecutive terms on this important Committee.

GBTA listened to you, our members, when you said that silence is golden when it comes to cell phones on airplanes. GBTA warned of the possible security threat from allowing expanded broadband access and voice calls on planes and will continue this fight with the FCC and in the halls of Congress in 2015.

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Congress ended the year 2014 by passing a bill to keep the U.S. Government open for business. However, we will need to remain vigilant and vocal in opposition to using travel as a pawn in the fight over funding for the Department of Homeland Security due to the President’s Executive Order on Immigration.

Tomorrow, on January 15, our Government Relations Committee will meet to finalize our policy and legislative agenda for the year as GBTA continues to advocate for the business travel industry. Among many issues, we are following hotel industry developments including limiting Wi-Fi access and variable cancellation policies and airline issues including open skies, passenger protection, increased taxes on passengers, ancillary fees and fuel surcharges. Ground transportation duty of care issues will also play a prominent role in our discussions.

Advocacy is not a destination, but a continuous journey. If there is an issue important to you, please let Shane Downey – GBTA’s Director of Public Policy, the Government Relations Committee or myself know. Many new issues will surface throughout the year and we want to ensure we are keeping you and the industry informed of the latest developments as we work on your behalf.

And, as always, thank you for your interest and support for our great industry!

*This post was also sent as an email to GBTA members.*


Week In Review

It was a week of brutal weather and cold in the United States and Canada that saw many parts of the two countries reach temperatures colder than Mars! Not surprisingly that meant flight cancellations as USA Today reported more than 930 cancelled flights in the U.S. on Tuesday.

ColderThanMars

Looking to avoid delays and cancellations? Well, you may not be able to do anything about the weather, but check out CNN’s article listing the most punctual airlines and hubs. Latvia’s airBaltic, Hawaiian Airlines and Austrian Airlines top the list for on-time arrivals and when it comes to the most punctual hub, Munich is best.

Safety is top of mind these days given events like the recent crash of an AirAsia flight and the terror attack still unfolding in France. Reuters reports that Indonesia has cracked down on the sale of cheap tickets for domestic flights to ensure that airlines do not cut corners on safety. CNN covered AirlineRatings.com’s annual list of the world’s safest airlines with Australian airline Qantas grabbing the top spot. Runway Girl Network covers safety from a different angle reporting on new inflight safety apps that seek passenger attention and retention.

Dealing with ancillary fees is nothing new for travel managers. This TNOOZ article identifies even more potential areas within travel firms that ancillary fees could be tacked on to.

In GBTA News, Douglas Anderson, president and CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, will take on the role of GBTA Foundation Board Chair. GBTA President & CEO Donna Kelliher also announced five other new members to the Foundation Board

Douglas Anderson, Incoming GBTA Foundation Chair

Douglas Anderson, Incoming GBTA Foundation Chair 

Finally, Buying Business Travel unveiled their Tech Trailblazers Hotlist for 2015. Tom Newcombe writes that technology developments in the managed travel sector have accelerated in recent years and companies are starting to see the potential of targeting business travelers. The list highlights companies that could see a big year in 2015 on this front.


Travel Managers & Data: Challenges & Needs

While having data available is nothing new, it has become such an integral part of our daily lives. We can easily track everything these days from our heart rates, the steps we take and calories we burn to recent purchases or gigabytes of data used on our smartphones. Data is also abundant in our work lives and GBTA conducted a study to see what data Travel Managers are using and how they use it.

This recently released GBTA survey of Asia Pacific and European Travel Managers was designed to better understand the data Travel Managers use to make decisions regarding their travel programs and to look at whether the data currently available to them meets their needs and whether there is room for improvement.

The study, sponsored by Diners Club International, surveyed more than 300 Asia-Pacific and European Travel Managers. It showed that the majority of Travel Managers in Asia Pacific (61 percent), believe their organization is successful in utilizing travel data for decision making, such as evaluating compliance and vendor selection, which can lead to cost saving solutions. In contrast, only about 40 percent of Travel Managers in Europe felt the same way.

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Approximately 80 percent of Travel Managers in Asia Pacific believe they know how to best maximize data and turn data into action as well as use it to identify the most cost effective and best options when booking travel. Roughly 70 percent of Travel Managers in Europe felt the same way.

In several cases, respondents in Asia Pacific felt they were twice as effective as their European counterparts in utilizing travel data from corporate card programs and Corporate Travel Accounts. For example, Asia Pacific Travel Managers use travel data from Corporate Travel Accounts for reconciliation (74 percent), budget purposes (67 percent) and managing risk and traveler safety (44 percent). In contrast, only about one-quarter of Travel Managers in Europe use data for reconciliation, approximately 30 percent use data for budget purposes and 20 percent use it for managing risk and traveler safety.

Extracting data from expense management systems is another useful source of data for Travel Managers. Usage is similar to corporate card and Corporate Travel Accounts. Total airline and hotel spend top the list of data metrics gathered as 75 percent or more of travel managers say they collect these metrics.

When looking at the challenges side of dealing with data, most companies have not consolidated their travel data from multiple data sources (49 percent in Asia Pacific and 59 percent in Europe). Consolidating data serves as an area for opportunity for Travel Managers in both regions to minimize the challenges of working with multiple sources and formats and out-of-date information.

There is no doubt that data can be an extremely valuable resource to help Travel Managers make smarter decisions for their company and colleagues. We’re already seeing data affect vendor selection and assist in negotiating rates, with the potential for even more benefits in the near future.


Week in Review

Happy New Year! Today’s week in review post wraps up 2014 and kicks off 2015 putting all the latest news in business travel at your fingertips. Business Traveller shares all of their biggest stories of 2014 in one place from new aircraft to long-awaited openings and other milestones. USA Today does a best of for 2014 focusing on the best airport amenities seen throughout the year.

Photo Credit: Nick Harris

Photo Credit: Nick Harris

Rob Gill reports in Buying Business Travel on the somber news as bodies and wreckage are found in the search for the Air Asia aircraft. The Wall Street Journal tells us that despite high-profile tragedies, air safety remains tight according to experts. Robert Wall says the number of fatalities from plane crashes this year is a long way off the 1,074 people who were killed in 2005 and numbers were much higher in the 1970s and 1980s, when far fewer people flew.

Do you have a resolution to improve your travel program in 2015? Martin Ferguson of Buying Business Travel talks to experts about focusing on secondary spend, not just air and hotel programs.

What should you expect in 2015? Travel writer Barbara Peterson tells us just that as she looks at the state of air travel in 2015 making predictions for air fare, frequent flier programs, business class and new planes among other things. In The Washington Post, Christopher Elliot writes about what to expect in 2015 travel trends including air, rental cars and hotel. He cites GBTA data showing air fares will get a modest bump and also talks about travel safety and ancillary fees.

Check back every Friday all year to stay on top of business travel news.