The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

Behind the Scenes: Developing The Masters Honors

Last year, GBTA announced a new initiative called The Masters Honors. I am proud to tell you more today about this unique program that recognizes the leadership of the most engaged travel management professionals in the business travel industry.

GBTA worked to create a program that will help elevate the business travel profession by honoring the top travel management professionals in the industry. More than 100 leaders will be announced as the inaugural class of The Masters Honors honorees next week – representing the top 4 percent of GBTA’s direct members across the globe.

A weighted average of the level of engagement of each GBTA direct member was used to determine who qualified for The Masters Honors list. There are four types of engagement that were considered: leading, teaching, attending and connecting.

Leading is based on serving in a GBTA leadership role involving ongoing commitment at the Board, Committee, Task Force or Chapter President level. Teaching includes sharing knowledge, wisdom and best practices involving presenting, writing white papers or teaching in a GBTA education forum. Attending involves face-to-face engagement with peers by attending meetings, conferences, education sessions and other networking events. Connecting includes remote engagement by accessing and participating in the GBTA community digitally.

These elements combined say more about a travel management professional than just their level of involvement in GBTA. These individuals are constantly pursuing education and networking opportunities to move their careers to the next level. They take all of that knowledge gained back to their companies to build better travel programs. They don’t just stay on top of the latest industry trends, they drive them. Through their efforts they have become world-leading practitioners with expertise in duty of care, supplier management, technology, sustainability, meetings management and more.

Honorees will be recognized at The Masters Honors Summit & Gala this April at the Trump National Doral property in Miami.

You can learn more about The Masters Honors program on the GBTA website, where we will also unveil the honorees next week!

The Super Bowl Winner? The Host City

 Businesses Spend As Cities Are Showcased For Future Business Meetings and Events

It’s too early to know whether the Denver Broncos or Carolina Panthers will be champions, but there is already one clear winner of Super Bowl 50: the San Francisco Bay Area.

Already, business travelers are streaming into the Bay Area from across the nation, to attend corporate networking events, meet with customers and close deals.

As a result of the Big Game, the San Francisco Bay Area will reap a windfall of roughly $350 million, according to Rockport Analytics, GBTA’s economist partner who has conducted research on behalf of several Super Bowl Host Committees.

This includes more than $68 million in direct business travel spending associated with corporate sponsorships, media, NFL operations and ancillary events.

The Super Bowl isn’t just a game that only lasts about 3 and a half hours counting commercials. In the weeks leading up to the spectacle, it is a business bonanza and an opportunity for the host city to showcase its facilities.

There’s a reason cities clamor for the right to host the Super Bowl: it delivers the goods, not only in driving dollars to the local economy, but also in bringing business leaders together from across the nation.

For business travelers, the Super Bowl has become the preeminent business development event of the season. The power of a major event such as the Super Bowl is enormous because of what it attracts – business leaders, corporate sponsors and diehard fans.

As GBTA’s chief economist Kenneth McGill says, “What the Super Bowl does is turbo charge an entire geographic area. Suddenly hotels that may have been partially full are sold out months in advance. Every activity gets ratcheted up – from restaurant bookings, car services, catering and event locations.” Here’s a breakdown of how a local economy gets a boost through business travel spending:

Super Bowl Chart

(Source: Rockport Analytics, Various SB Host Committees, NFL, ESPN, CBS, Fox, Various corporate sponsors)

Super Bowls also help showcase a city and its facilities. Visitors who enjoy their trip for the game may suggest to employers and associations that the host city could be a place to visit for future conferences and events years down the road.

Hosting the Super Bowl is such a major endeavor; corporate sponsors know if they can handle it, they can handle anything.  So while it’s hard to put an exact dollar figure on it, hosting the Super Bowl reaps benefits for years to come for business events.

One final note:  Super Bowl hosting also brings out debate on the extent of the benefit.  Is the economic activity associated with the Big Game incremental or just replacing other activities?

Local officials seem to think it provides a big boost. Here’s how they say they have scored by hosting the Super Bowl:

2015:  The thriller between the Seahawks and Patriots delivered for Phoenix, which generated $450 million.

2014:  The game was a blowout, but that didn’t stop the New York/New Jersey area from claiming Super Bowl spending records with a $600 million bonanza.

2013: The Big Easy made out big with $480 million when the dust had settled from the 49ers-Ravens nail biter.

So, no matter the odds on the game itself, the economic benefit is a sure thing.  And once again, business travel drives lasting business growth.  

Message from the Office of the GBTA President

The following post was originally sent as an email to GBTA members earlier this afternoon.

Dear GBTA Members,

Hope you are off to a productive start to the New Year! This is the first in what will be a regular series of updates I will send to you in 2016. I hope you find them useful as we continue to advance in the business travel industry this year.

Convention Theme We recently unveiled the 2016 Convention theme, BALANCE, which aptly describes today’s business travel environment where buyers must balance many priorities from duty of care and risk management to managing costs and complying with various regulations. Finding balance can be particularly challenging within our industry given the changing demographics, new technologies and shifting travel platforms that affect the way we operate. I am looking forward to finding balance and experiencing all the opportunities that Convention affords each and every one of us. This year’s Convention will be held in Denver from July 16-20, 2016.  I look forward to seeing you there!


New Indirect Member Category
During the 2015 Special Election this past fall, our Membership approved an amendment to the GBTA Bylaws. The amendment created a new Indirect Member category for industry-specific consultants and outsourced travel managers who act as buyers yet work for suppliers. Those individuals who are in this category retain all of the benefits of being a Direct Member, except for voting privileges.

Creating this category will require significant infrastructure changes that will affect everything from accounting and registration to the GBTA Hub and our local chapters. We will be phasing in these changes over the next year. Until the changes have been fully implemented, we will continue with our existing Direct and Allied membership categories.

I will continue to update you on our progress as we work diligently to make this new category a reality.

GBTA Russia
Due to several circumstances beyond our control, GBTA has ended operations in Russia. The main reason was the enactment of the Russian Data Law, which requires overseas organizations that have Russian citizens’ personal information to maintain that data on Russian servers. Complying with the new law would be incredibly complicated, would require significant additional overhead and ultimately would be cost-prohibitive.

Another contributing factor was the region’s geopolitical instability. We were at risk of being unable to deliver the content, programming and product at the quality that GBTA and its members expect. It simply makes more sense for GBTA to invest in the areas and regions that will have the most overall positive impact on our members.

We did not make this decision lightly.  We are incredibly thankful for the Russia Advisory Board’s efforts in helping to create our past programming and hope we can return in the future.

The Masters Honors
The Masters Honors is an exciting new recognition program comprised of the most engaged GBTA Direct members throughout the world. These individuals have demonstrated their engagement by leading, teaching, attending and connecting. They are constantly pursuing education and networking opportunities to advance their careers while becoming world leading practitioners.

These honorees will be recognized at The Masters Honors Summit and Gala, which will take place at the Trump National Doral property in Miami, Florida on April 10-11, 2016. Honorees will enjoy: a reception, a full day of dynamic education programming, networking with industry peers and the annual GBTA Foundation Gala.

In Closing As we begin 2016, I am excited about what’s happening with GBTA and its members. I will continue to update you on our planned events, education and opportunities over the next several months. As always, please reach out to me with any thoughts or questions.

Thank you all for your continued commitment to GBTA.  I wish you great success in 2016, both personally and professionally.

Best regards,
Christle Johnson, CCTE, GLP, GTP
GBTA President

GBTA and European Partner Network to Engage with European Commission on Aviation Strategy

Earlier this week, GBTA and its European partner network congratulated the European Commission on the adoption of an aviation strategy last December and called for further engagement on issues of particular relevance to the business travel industry.

In a letter to Commissioners, the organizations identified three areas for further discussion:

  • Boosting competitiveness of the European Union’s aviation sector, particularly through negotiations over air transport agreements;
  • Ensuring air safety and efficiency in the wake of the recent Paris attacks through the adoption of additional risk-based security programs;
  • Investing in a robust transportation infrastructure and solving airport capacity challenges.

The letter was signed by GBTA, the Danish Business Travel Association (DBTA), the Finnish Business Travel Association (FBTA), the German Business Travel Association (VDR), the Institute of Travel Management (ITM), the Netherlands Association of Travel Management (NATM), the Norwegian Business Travel Association (NBTA) and the Swedish Business Travel Association (SBTA).

These organizations represent over 7,000 members who use and provide business travel services in Europe and across the globe. View the full letter here.

Week in Review

With GBTA’s headquarters located in Alexandria, VA just outside of Washington, D.C., there has been much talk of the impending blizzard. USA Today writes about how the east coast blizzard is already a travel nightmare thanks to preemptive cancellations and notes that airlines are waiving changes fees ahead of the snowstorm.

Let’s talk loyalty. Skift reports that, “competition is heating up in the airline and hotel space to the point that operators are now actively trying to steal each other’s top customers.” In a Road Warrior Voices column in USA Today, Kevn Farrell asks if Delta has gone too far with their changes, in effect losing customer loyalty.

In airline news, Buying Business Travel’s Tom Newcombe reports on a new airline association that includes five of Europe’s largest airlines created with the goal to influence European aviation policy and tackle issues such as rising airport costs and air traffic controller strikes. Business Traveller Asia Pacific writes that travellers departing on flights out of Hong Kong will no longer have to pay fuel surcharges.

BTN highlights a logistical challenge for travel programs in their article about one European travel manager’s quest to get rail operators online.

Is your company planning to do business in Cuba? The Miami Herald reports that American Airlines is hopeful it will be flying regularly scheduled service between the United States and Cuba within the first half of this year.

This week’s list: 3 ultrabooks for business travel from the South China Morning Post.  

A Deeper Dive into GBTA’s U.S. Business Travel Forecast

Last week, the GBTA Foundation released our latest quarterly U.S. business travel outlook projecting just over 3 percent growth in business travel spending for 2016 and 2017. Here are three key questions we’ve been hearing about the forecast.


Will airfares drop in 2016? In 2015, price growth was the lowest we’ve witnessed since the Great Recession. A stronger dollar and plummeting oil prices kept the lid on price increases across the travel sector. Our expectation for price growth in 2016, however, show hotel prices, food and beverage and ground transportation all experiencing a significant rebound, while airfares continue to fall.


It is important to note that this is just the base fare though. Once you factor in fees, the total cost of airfare will likely still be higher as ancillary revenues have been on the rise. From 2010, ancillary revenue for U.S. airlines – just for checked bags and change fees – has climbed from $5.6 billion annually to $6.5 billion in 2014, according to data from the Department of Transportation. It is already at $5.1 billion for the first three quarters of 2015, so it does not appear to be slowing down.

How is group travel performing?
In 2015, group travel outperformed individual travel activity. Average spending on group travel, however, declined slightly from $700 in 2014 to $694 in 2015 per group business trip. Volume growth will pick up the pace over the next two years, growing in the 3 percent range, but spending growth will remain restrained for group business travel through 2016 before loosening up in 2017.


How is the global economy impacting international outbound travel?

International outbound business (IOB) travel continues to face headwinds from poor global macroeconomic fundamentals. Poor consumer and business confidence are holding back global economic growth. Lagging performance and heightened uncertainty in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa have detracted from global growth as well. These headwinds will likely continue to challenge IOB travel performance as we move into 2016 and 2017.

Total IOB travel volume is expected to grow 1.9 percent in 2016 followed by 2.3 percent in 2017, closing in on 8 million trips. Total spending on those trips is projected to grow 2.8 percent this year and another 3.4 percent in 2017, eclipsing $38 billion. BTI_q42015_IOB

The stronger dollar translates into relatively cheaper travel abroad for U.S. firms, in effect, lowering aggregate spending. The stronger U.S. dollar has the opposite impact on volume, however, as lower costs for travel abroad translates into a higher ROI for U.S. firms sending workers out on international travel. While there is some competing downward pressure from those same firms as they are likely experiencing lower top-line growth from their operations abroad, the net impact of a stronger dollar is better IOB volume performance. Still, we expect economic headwinds to persist over the next two years as growth in emerging markets struggles to regain footing and economic uncertainty continues to handcuff global travel buyers.

U.S. Business Travel: An Island of Stability

Every quarter GBTA looks at economic trends and business spending to see where the business travel industry is headed. Our latest report, the BTI™ Outlook – United States 2015 Q4 – finds that U.S. business travel is an island of stability in a sea of global volatility.

Overall, the BTI Outlook finds that the U.S. economy has returned to pre-Great Recession footing, but without the same speculative dangers that existed in 2007 and 2008. This bodes well for future U.S. business travel spending, which the GBTA Foundation predicts will grow at 3.2 percent in 2016 and 3.5 percent in 2017, reaching $299.9 billion and $310.4 billion, respectively.

However, this growth is largely driven by price, not increases in the numbers of transactions. So this suggests that we can expect continued consolidation in the business travel industry.

Several factors are, in fact, limiting the breakout growth and increase in transactions that we all would like to see.

First, business travel inflation in 2015 was at historically low levels due to the combination of a strong dollar and very low oil prices. In fact, price growth was the lowest rate witnessed since the Great Recession. In 2016 and 2017, price growth will return to normal - 2.6 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively.


Secondly, challenging global macroeconomic factors affecting key regions are also putting a damper on increased growth. While North America and Western Europe were two of the most stable regions in the world in 2015, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa were a drag on the global market. This trend is likely to persist in 2016.

Given these factors, growth will remain positive and a steady driver of economic activity in the United States. But – at least over the next two years – we don’t expect to see the type of rapid growth that suggests that the economy is firing on all cylinders.

Booking Behaviors vs. Company Policy: An Opportunity for TMCs

A recent GBTA Foundation study, sponsored by Concur, talked to both business travelers and travel buyers about booking behaviors. Over the past year, business travelers are generally satisfied with booking business trips across a variety of channels.

Looking at the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, more than 85 percent of business travelers are satisfied with booking directly with an airline or hotel, while roughly three-quarters are satisfied with using an online booking tool (OBT). When you look deeper though, travelers are more often “very satisfied” with booking direct than they are with using an OBT. ConcurPost2_USsatisfactionbookingchannels ConcurPost2_UKAusSatisfactionBookingChannels

On the flip side, travel buyers generally don’t think their company will be more likely to allow booking through alternative channels five years from now. In the United States, two in five (38 percent) travel buyers at companies that currently do allow booking through alternative channels believe they will be less likely to do so in five years. That number jumps to nearly half (49 percent) of travel buyers at companies that currently do not allow booking through alternative channels.

ConcurPost2_likelihoodtobook alternative channels

At first glance, these results suggest a disconnect between traveler preferences and the future direction of travel programs. TMCs could also see this as an opportunity, however. Understanding why travelers like booking direct and integrating as much as possible from that experience into booking through an OBT can increase the level of satisfaction and compliance with a corporate tool.

Five years from now, alternative channels will still exist and business travelers will still use them, but it is up to the travel buyer along with their TMC to determine how to manage this behavior. Increased education on travel policies, better use of technology to capture data generated outside of the corporate system and partnerships with suppliers are all ways a TMC can help travel programs better manage traveler behavior.

Week in Review

It’s a new year and the Week in Review is back to keep you up to date on the latest happenings in business travel each Friday.

Concerns are buzzing around Real ID, but it’s not true that Phase 4 – stopping a person with a non-compliant ID from boarding an airplane – is just days away. Rather, in the five states (Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, and Washington) that are not in compliance and have not been granted a waiver, the most that will happen is people will need another form of ID to get into federal buildings. Check out this Yahoo! News report for the latest details, and remember that if the Department of Homeland Security moves ahead with the plan to deny non-compliant state driver’s licenses for boarding an airplane, then they must give instructions on what will be acceptable and give at least 120 days’ notice. International tourists arrive in airport waiting room

Switching gears to another government agency, USA Today reports that the IRS now has the power to revoke your passport. In the new highway funding bill passed by Congress in December, it added a new section that allows the State Department to revoke, deny or limit passports for U.S. citizens with more than $50,000 in tax debt.

Let’s talk hotels. According to The New York Times, hotel reservations are becoming more complicated and more costly to cancel. Tnooz is also talking hotel cancellations, reporting on a new study showing one in five hotels that are booked online are cancelled before the guest arrives at the hotel. You may see some new concepts when traveling this year as USA Today tell us how hotels are reimagining the lobby in 2016. Skift reports on some hotels moving away from having a traditional desk in each hotel room and the backlash that created.

Looking to the friendly skies, CNN gives us the lowdown on the world’s safest airlines for 2016. The International Business Times reports on the big U.S. carriers hiking prices in the first industry-wide increase since June. Bloomberg is talking mergers and asks if Spirit’s new CEO’s experience with airline mergers is a sign of a possible deal between Spirit and Frontier. BTN reported that United Airlines president and CEO Oscar Munoz is recovering from a heart transplant as part of his treatment after suffering a heart attack in October. He is expected to return to work by the beginning of the second quarter. Airplane silhouette in the sky at sunset Air

In GBTA news, the call for nominations and applications is officially open for the Project ICARUS 2016 North American Sustainability Outstanding Achievement Awards. Skift also reported on a recent GBTA study comparing the wish lists of corporate travel managers and business travelers.

To kick off the New Year, I will leave you with three lists instead of the usual one:


REAL ID Update

Today, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, delivered a statement on the final phase of implementation for the REAL ID Act. Many have worried that Phase 4 – stopping a person with a non-compliant ID from boarding an airplane – is just days away. That is not the case, however. In fact, travelers will have until January 22, 2018.

In his statement, Secretary Johnson emphasized,

"Right now, no individual needs to adjust travel plans, or rush out to get a new driver’s license or a passport for domestic air travel.  Until January 22, 2018, residents of all states will still be able to use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel. Passengers can also continue to use any of the various other forms of identification accepted by TSA (such as a Passport or Passport Card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID).

Travelers are encouraged to check the REAL ID compliance status of their state on the DHS website and review TSA’s list of acceptable forms of identificationTravelers may also check with their state’s driver’s licensing agency about how to acquire a REAL ID compliant license."