The Business of Travel

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The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association


Tracking Travel Expenses

Expense management tools are nothing new in the business travel space. Companies rely on them to save time, gain visibility over expenses, ease the expense report process for employees, and much more. Expense management software provider Chrome River has been in business for nearly 10 years and just recently announced a partnership to deliver integrated tools to Amadeus clients.

Earlier this year, Chrome River Co-Founder and CEO Alan Rich sat down with GBTA’s Heather Haley at our GBTA Convention Broadcast Studio. The two chatted about the biggest future trend in the industry, as well as Chrome River’s success and what to expect from the company in the future.

View the full video here:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s Convention.


Week in Review

With the holidays just around the corner, Business Traveller reports on aviation strikes that may affect you.

According to Buying Business Travel, risk management company iJet International acquired UK crisis management company Red24.

Reuters reports American Airlines won $15 million in an antitrust case against Sabre. The jury awarded the airline $5.1 million, which will be tripled under federal antitrust law.

According to Buying Business Travel, Delta and Aeromexico have accepted conditions for a joint venture. They will be granted antitrust immunity for agreeing to conditions established by the Department of Transportation.

Bloomberg notes Airbnb is in the process of developing a service for booking air travel. The company may acquire an online travel agency or license data from a provider like Amadeus or Sabre.

According to Buying Business Travel, the UK government is launching a consultation on operating drones near aircraft after reports of 59 near-misses over the past year.

Tnooz reports Expedia is now integrated with TripAdvisor’s Instant booking platform, allowing users to book through the online travel agency without leaving the TripAdvisor website.

According to USA TODAY, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines announced the termination of their partnership. As of April 2017, their codesharing and frequent-flier partnerships will end.

Business Traveller shares news of a codeshare partnership between Jet Airways’ loyalty program JetPrivilege and Delta Air Lines’ loyalty program SkyMiles.

According to Reuters, Iran sealed a deal with Airbus for 100 aircraft, shortly following an agreement with Boeing for 80 aircraft.

With Asia-Pacific booming as the world’s largest travel market, 4Hoteliers shares how hoteliers must adapt to meet the expectations of travelers in the region.

HotelMarketing.com provides tips on how revenue strategists can manage rate and distribution strategies in a market of expanding supply.

According to USA TODAY, Delta has altered its in-flight medical policies after an incident in mid-October in which flight attendants doubted a black doctor’s credentials and prevented her from assisting a man in a health crisis. Delta’s attendants are no longer required to verify medical credentials.

Hotelmarketing.com states the online hotel booking market is expected to exceed $100 billion in 2016.

According to KKTV 11 News, the TSA has taken to social media to answer questions regarding prohibited items on flights. Users send a picture of the item in question to TSA via social media and receive an answer within 20 minutes.


2016 Hospitality Trends

From direct booking pushes to mergers and acquisitions, the hotel space was dramatically altered this year. AccorHotels entered the sharing economy with its acquisition of onefinestay, Marriott and Starwood officially completed their merger, and many hotels began actively pushing for direct bookings. Other companies like City Express Hotels (Hoteles City Express) expanded their portfolio with the development of new properties throughout the year.

In July, City Express Hotels’ Indira Ponce and GBTA’s Caitlin Gomez chatted about the hotel brand at our GBTA Convention Broadcast Studio. Indira talked in detail about their focus on serving the business traveler and the principles important to the company, with sustainability being one of the main pillars.

View the full video here:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s Convention.


Marking an Anniversary

Do you remember how you celebrated your last anniversary? Some couples enjoyed an extravagant dinner, gaming brands gave fans freebies in the form of computer games and console games, and Q&A Residential Hotel offered luxury accommodations in New York City for just $11.25. The Furnished Quarters hotel brand extended this offer to guests in honor of its first anniversary on November 25.

Earlier this year, Furnished Quarters’ Anna Gaffney and GBTA’s Caitlin Gomez had an opportunity to meet and chat at our Broadcast Studio. The two discussed what sets the company apart, as well as the concept behind Q&A Residential Hotel and the introduction of a new Friends with Benefits loyalty program.

View the full video here:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s Convention.


December Message from the Office of the GBTA President

*The following message was originally sent as an email to GBTA Members.*

In the United States, we recently celebrated Thanksgiving, a time when we can take stock of all our many blessings. I continue to be thankful for the honor and privilege to serve as President of GBTA, and for all of the work that GBTA and its many volunteers have done in support of the business travel industry. This organization has become a global leader in education and research while making things easier, safer and more efficient for the business traveler. I am grateful and proud of all that GBTA has accomplished.

I would like to take a moment to highlight some of GBTA’s key accomplishments thus far in 2016.

Education
GBTA has always been the preeminent provider of continuing professional development and training for the business travel community. To that end, we have made many enhancements in our top programs.

Five years ago, we launched the Global Travel Professional® (GTP) Certificate program, a first-of-its-kind certification program for business travel professionals. Since then, almost 600 professionals have completed the program and earned their accreditation. Our number of course offerings continually grows as we offer the GTP throughout the world, so professionals can advance their careers.

We have two new GTP enhancements for 2017. First, we will be providing an online platform for the recertification process. It will include a tracking portal for recertification credits, making it easier for members to keep up with their accomplishments. Second, we will be offering practice exams as part of the overall study process.

In addition to these improvements, we are currently working on a massive update of content for the GTP exam and the study material. We have surveyed more than 5,000 business travel professionals to ensure we are capturing changes and maintaining the best and most important information within the industry.

These enhancements build on multiple updates and improvements we made this year.

This year, in response to member feedback, we also made enhancements to the Global Leadership Professional® (GLP) program, a hallmark of the GBTA Academy for more than 15 years. The GLP Program is the only masters-level course for travel professionals. It uses an interdisciplinary approach that addresses both the opportunities and challenges of conducting business in today’s environment. We modified the program format into four two-day courses, adding deep dives into specific competencies. With this change, the participant has more control over his or her participation in the program. These changes in the program also resulted in a pricing structure that makes the GLP program more affordable.

GBTA continues to tailor our educational offerings to meet the needs of our members. This year, we offered nearly 80 different webinars that collectively attracted more than 4,000 member participants. The webinars reflect our ongoing goal of delivering the highest level of professional development, while remaining sensitive to the ever-increasing demands on your personal and professional time and budget.

Research
We continue to maintain a robust research division, which has completed almost 110 research studies this year on wide-ranging topics affecting all aspects of business travel. We completed two new, groundbreaking studies that we unveiled in Frankfurt: Policy and Preferences from The Business Traveler’s Perspective and What’s Next for Booking Channels.

We make our research accessible and publicize it as widely as possible. It has helped shape dozens of GBTA education sessions throughout the world and has been referenced in thousands of articles appearing in print and social media across the globe.

Unlike much research, ours is designed to generate practical applications. Driven by our research findings, we recently introduced two newly revamped global resources to increase efficiency within the industry.

The first is our Sustainability in Travel Self-Assessment Tool. It will enable organizations to identify strengths and weaknesses in their travel programs with regard to sustainability. The tool will also provide recommendations and identify specific resources for improving sustainability. It is designed to transform the entire process of planning and implementing a robust sustainability program. It is easy to use and can be completed either all at once or section-by-section.

Our second resource, our new and improved Managed Travel Index, helps travel professionals benchmark the effectiveness of their managed travel program. It is customizable to a specific program based on information the user provides. Like an expert consultant, it reviews an individual travel program and identifies specific ways to make it better. It is also available in several languages.

These are just some of the ways that GBTA continues to respond to the ongoing changes in our industry. We remain committed to addressing the needs of our members – both buyers and suppliers – and ensuring that they have the tools necessary to succeed.

Events
GBTA offers events literally all over the world. Attendees gain access to the best research and knowledge in the industry, and they benefit from an unparalleled opportunity to network with their industry peers. We offer specific industry sector events, from the Energy, Resources & Marine Symposium (ERM) to Supplier Summits to regional conferences and symposiums. There are simply too many to list them all.

In early March in Miami, we launched a new event—The Masters Honors Summit and Gala. There, we honored a group of GBTA members who are among the most engaged travel professionals in the industry. The program was our way of publicly thanking these individuals for their time, expertise and commitment both to business travel and to GBTA.

Later in the year, we celebrated milestone anniversaries with our regional conferences in Buenos Aires and Mexico. We continued to expand our activities in Europe and North America. I am both amazed and intensely proud of the success of our programming in Canada and Europe. In both areas, GBTA’s annual event continues to be the largest business travel conference in the region.

I attended the Europe Conference in Frankfurt in November with a record-breaking nearly 1,000 attendees. We were treated to some excellent featured speakers including international counter-terrorism and security expert Hagai M. Segal, Concur President Mike Eberhard, and American Express Global Business Travel CEO Doug Anderson, among others. The education sessions were relevant and thought-provoking, and the Expo floor was bustling.

Last but certainly not least, we celebrated another successful Convention. It was our biggest and best yet, with more than 6,500 attendees, and for the first time, a completely sold out exhibition floor. More than 80 education sessions covered topics ranging from best practices in duty of care to the impact of technology on the business travel industry. We heard from incredible speakers, including United’s Oscar Munoz and TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger. We had a front row seat to exciting panel discussions, and our featured speakers – actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, future Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and astronaut Scott Kelly – did not disappoint.

I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings for us. Until then, I wish each of you a wonderful holiday season and a happy and prosperous new year!

Best wishes,
Christle Johnson
GBTA President


Week in Review

Mergers and acquisitions are all the rage this week! Reuters reports Alaska Air completed its acquisition of Virgin America in a $2.6 billion deal. According to Buying Business Travel, Lufthansa Group completed its acquisition of Brussels Airlines, purchasing the remaining 55 percent of shares for €2.6 million. Financial Times reports car rental company Europcar announced plans to acquire its Irish franchisee Europcar Ireland. The company also plans to spend up to €500 million on future acquisitions.

According to Skift, Iran Air closed a $16.6 billion deal with Boeing for 80 planes, in the biggest agreement Iran has struck with an American company since the 1979 revolution and U.S. embassy takeover.

Last week, USA TODAY reported the DOT put forth a proposal that would allow airlines to allow voice calls during flights, as long as they notified passengers beforehand. GBTA believes the DOT should permanently ban cell phone calls on planes, due to the security threat presented, as well as the potential for disruption and a loss of productivity.

According to The Washington Post, the DOT has concluded that airlines did not price gouge passengers following the Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia last year. Since the wreck delayed rail travel for days, allegations had surfaced that the cost of airline tickets in the Northeast region shot up during that time.

Buying Business Travel reports low-cost carrier Air Seoul signed a multi-year deal with Sabre, making its content available to travel agents via a GDS for the first time.

A new study from the GBTA Foundation, in partnership with Concur, finds direct bookings are becoming increasingly popular, with nearly 40% of managed frequent business travelers regularly booking directly. The study explores priorities and challenges corporate travel programs face and identifies how travel professionals attempt to balance traveler experience and employee compliance. Another GBTA Foundation study, in partnership with AccorHotels, reveals best practices for successful relationships between hoteliers and travel buyers, as well as common barriers to success.

According to The Times of Israel, startup 30SecondstoFly has developed an AI-powered travel assistant called Claire that is capable of learning company travel policies and employee preferences. Using that information, Claire is able to optimize smart itineraries and book and track business trips for SMBs.

TravelDailyNews reports Munich Airport plans to become Germany’s first carbon-neutral airport. They recently adopted a resolution that states they will reduce CO2 emissions directly attributable to the airport’s operations by 60 percent by 2030.

According to HotelMarketing, travel ads in Ontario, Canada will soon have to include all taxes and fees. The new rules, effective January 1, are designed to protect consumers and create a level playing field for the industry.

AviationPros notes Mumbai’s international airport has installed self-bag drop units, making it the first airport in India to do so.

Buying Business Travel reports beTravelwise has developed a safety program for LGBT travelers to help mitigate certain risks.


Travel Professionals Accept Direct Booking is Here to Stay, Work to Gain Visibility into Cost Savings and Risk Management

A new study from the GBTA Foundation, in partnership with Concur, explores priorities and challenges corporate travel programs face today. As the travel industry evolves in response to mobile technology and employee direct-booking behavior, travel professionals are finding they need to modernize their travel programs not only to control costs, but also to increase overall travel and expense visibility.

Direct Booking: Here to Stay
When it comes to travel program effectiveness, travel professionals report direct booking as a primary challenge. Direct bookings are becoming increasingly popular given a growing preference among business travelers for a self-service approach to booking – not to mention the fact that traveler satisfaction with company-preferred booking tools has not always kept pace with supplier tools. Increasingly, suppliers are now offering incentives to book direct, and mobile technology makes it easier for business travelers to connect with suppliers, as well.

Travel professionals are trying to bring together mobile technology and the corporate travel process to not only enhance the traveler experience, but also increase employee compliance. Travel professionals cannot fully achieve their top-level priorities of duty of care and cost savings, however, without addressing direct booking.

Implications of Direct Booking Travel professionals agree the lack of visibility caused by direct booking has duty of care implications. The vast majority agree that in times of crisis, traditional corporate travel management tools aren’t able to locate travelers who have booked directly with suppliers.

concur-study-pic-updated

Educating employees, who generally want to do the right thing, on proper direct booking techniques, will not only increase spending visibility, but will also help companies save on their bottom line. Some of these proper direct booking techniques include:

  • Booking through approved channels
  • Tracking spend

Unmanaged supplier direct booking can lead travelers to unknowingly ‘miss-out’ on negotiated rates and amenities, and ultimately pay higher prices.

Next Steps: What is a Travel Professional to Do?
Driven by the need to control invisible spending and adjust to new trends in traveler behavior, travel professionals are turning to technology to capture direct booking data. Some are making it easier for travelers to share their trip information, while others are using an automated data capture system, among other methods. Some also rely on expense reporting data—but because it is received after the trip—this approach causes serious duty of care implications.

Through implementing streamlined travel solutions that include mobile technology, travel professionals expect to improve the odds of receiving data back from direct booking and gain visibility into the big picture of employee travel behavior. However, they are still looking for the ability to capture detailed travel information including class, ticket number and seat assignment. These areas also need more data coverage:

  • Real-time visibility into spending
  • Automated expense reporting
  • Better integration among technology systems
  • Wider supplier reach for automated data capture programs

With rapid industry changes, travel professionals realize that being prepared for future change is more critical now than ever before. They agree that there are still obstacles to overcome with technology and risk management, but are confident the evolution of technology in these areas will continue to offer greater capabilities. They feel they are making strides in gaining valued data that can drive greater cost savings and implement more duty of care responsibilities.

Both travel professionals and travelers ultimately want what is best for their company—and while direct booking may pose some challenges—many opportunities exist, as well. It is possible for travel professionals to reach critical program priorities while also meeting traveler preferences, if the proper technology is implemented.

“The GBTA Foundation study strongly confirmed that nearly 40 percent of managed frequent business travelers regularly shop and book directly with suppliers and OTAs in addition to the traditional OBT/TMC channel,” said Mike Koetting, Executive Vice President, Supplier and TMC Services for Concur. “This multi-channel behavior is a well-entrenched reality across every geography and every demographic that was studied. Companies that continue to limit the scope of their travel management program to the traditional channel have almost certainly lost visibility, savings, and control over spending in the non-traditional channels. Capturing and managing travel, no matter where it was purchased is no longer optional for a well-managed travel program.”

Methodology: This study used both a qualitative and quantitative approach. The qualitative side is based off of 11 in-depth interviews of travel managers in the United States and Europe, mostly from organizations with mature travel programs, conducted in June 2016. The quantitative side consisted of a supplemental survey completed by 84 U.S.-based travel managers fielded from July 7-12, 2016.

Read the Full Report: The study, Travel Programs: Challenges, Priorities and Implication, is available free of charge exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org.  


Hoteliers Shift Focus to China

Hotel companies like Marriott International and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) are increasingly shifting their focus to Chinese travelers due to a surge in China’s travel market, according to a recent article by Business Vancouver. This shift in focus has resulted in major expansions in China, with some international hotel chains even launching brands tailored to Chinese guests. Our research shows China overtook the United States as the number one business travel market in the world in 2016, with spend forecasted to grow 10.1 percent to $320.7 billion USD.

Earlier this year at our Broadcast Studio, IHG’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales Derek DeCross spoke to GBTA’s Caitlin Gomez about the current state of the industry, as well as major similarities and differences between the airline and hotel industries, based on his experience in both. Derek noted, “We’re very fortunate to work in an industry where we shrink the globe, we enable commerce, we bridge cultural divides, we bring families together.”

View the full video here:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s Convention.


The Road to Successful Partnerships Between Hoteliers and Travel Buyers

The success of most companies relies on the relationships built around it, whether that is with customers, suppliers or other partners. Successful partnerships are not built overnight, however, and can often take years to develop, requiring great effort by all parties. When it comes to establishing solid partnerships between hoteliers and corporate travel professionals, there is no formula or silver bullet that guarantees success. There are a few key elements though that both sides agree help lay the foundation for productive, mutually-beneficial relationships.

A new GBTA Foundation study, conducted in partnership with AccorHotels, reveals that most agree successful partnerships are earned through trust, active communication and understanding each other’s goals. The research looked to identify the tenets and best practices to establish and grow a mutually-beneficial working relationship between travel professionals and hoteliers, as well as determine common roadblocks and barriers to success.

“Building successful partnerships is critical for success in many businesses,” said Christine Kerr, Vice President of Global Sales, Corporate Division, AccorHotels. “We especially understand the value strategic partnerships bring in a constantly evolving hotel market, and this research shows trust, communication and a mutual understanding of goals are paramount when it comes to building strong, lasting partnerships.”

Almost all interviewees stressed the importance of trust in a partnership, which is built over time through responsiveness, honest communication, delivering on promises and full transparency when it comes to pricing and the ability to meet expectations. Being upfront and willing to share information is a basic element of trust for both sides.

Frequent engagement is important. Communicating once a year at an annual review or during the RFP process is not enough to build or sustain a meaningful partnership. Regularly scheduled check-ins help both parties better understand how the partnership is progressing and identify if adjustments need to be made.

Additionally, travel professionals and hoteliers need to spend time learning about the other in order to determine if the partnership has the potential for success. Discussing key priorities and goals early in the game will help gain alignment, so both sides are working toward a common goal and fully understand their value proposition.

Solid and successful partnerships between travel professionals and hoteliers often suffer a breakdown during the RFP process when any of the components of trust, communication and understanding are compromised. The RFP process has many pain points resulting in a frustrating process for both hoteliers and travel professionals, alike. Both sides see it as a time consuming process where unrealistic goals or expectations can get in the way of deals. The current RFP lifecycle also creates an environment of one-year partnerships, which makes it difficult to foster loyalty. There is interest from both parties to move to multi-year deals, reducing the number of RFP seasons and giving each side more time to demonstrate commitment to the partnership.

Outside of the RFP process, direct booking is another major pain point hoteliers and travel professionals face when working together. Travel professionals say direct booking undercuts their travel program and feel unsupported by hoteliers encouraging this practice. Another major concern for travel professionals when travelers book direct is losing visibility into their travel details and data. Hoteliers could make an effort to collect and provide data from direct bookings for their partners helping them meet their duty of care requirements and record all travel bookings.

So what best practices do all successful partnerships have in place? The two sides determine shared goals early, practice transparency and communicate continuously. Travel professionals and hoteliers taking the time to invest in these relationships report great returns on streamlining and improving their respective programs.

Methodology: This qualitative study is based on 12 one-on-one, in-depth, phone interviews, six with travel professionals and six with hoteliers conducted between March 1 and May 16, 2016. To participate, travel professionals had to be involved with selecting, negotiating and booking hotels for their companies and hoteliers must manage relationships with corporate clients at the regional or global level.

Read the Full Report: The study, Hoteliers and Travel Professionals: The Road to Successful Partnerships, is available free of charge exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org.

Learn More: A webinar featuring industry experts will discuss what elements comprise a good partnership between hoteliers and travel professionals. Listeners will learn the hallmark features of successful, long-lasting hotel/buyer partnerships and how your own can be improved. Take a deeper dive into this research today, December 13 at 2pm ET. Complimentary registration is still available.