The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

Week in Review

The looming threat of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shutdown dominated the news this week - so much so that GBTA created an entire blog post devoted to a round-up of coverage on just this. Check out the latest news here.

Also this week, The Hill reported that Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said federal funding for long-distance railways and intracity public transit systems should be increased.

International SOS released an International Health Risk map featured in USA Today’s Road Warrior Voices blog. It ranks the world’s countries by the availability and effectiveness of their emergency medical and dental care. They place each country into low-, medium- and high-risk categories by assessing a range of factors.

The Star Online reported on travel trends in Asia citing GBTA data showing China is poised to eventually take over as the world’s largest business travel market.

In airline news, winter reared its ugly head again this week forcing many more flight cancellations. According to Runway Girl Network, you should stay vigilant as more airlines cap data packages in-flight. They write that airlines are pricing their inflight Wi-Fi services in several different ways, but one scheme in particular is poised to become more common, particularly in economy class on international carriers. Finally, TTG Digital reports from the Business Travel Show in London that airline fares will not follow the fall in oil prices.

In hotel news, Skift writes that the next generation of hotel WiFi is finally coming online. This is good news since a recent report covered in Hotel Marketing says almost two thirds of business travelers require a high-speed internet connection rather than food and comfort.

Rob Gill of Buying Business Travel reports that the majority of delegates at the Business Travel Show’s Hosted Buyer Pre-Show Conference said that the so-called millennial generation were generally more compliant than older workers, despite lots of speculation to the contrary in recent years. Main Street is also talking about millennials sharing four ways business travel has transformed for the millennial generation.

Time is Running Short as DHS Shutdown Looms

*Last Updated: March 3, 2015 at 11:50am

GBTA has been talking for weeks about the serious, unintended consequences on business travel if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill fails to pass leading to a shutdown. Absent a full year funding bill, business travel can easily be disrupted, causing an immediate impact on our economy. For every one percent decrease in business travel spending, the U.S. economy loses an additional 71,000 jobs, nearly $5 billion in GDP, $3 billion in wages and $1.2 billion in tax collections.

With the February 27 deadline quickly approaching, others are beginning to take notice and talk about what it means if DHS doesn’t get funded and a shutdown occurs.

Here is the latest news on the topic: The Washington Post reported on Sunday that GOP discord is undercutting efforts to fund DHS. The article says the deeply divided party can’t stop a Homeland Security shutdown on its own, but a conservative faction is doing everything it can to prevent collaboration with Democrats on a funding bill.

  USA Today reported that Congress narrowly averted a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security late Friday as both the House and Senate passed a seven-day stop gap extension of funding for the agency just two hours before the deadline.

According to The Washington Post, House Republicans on Thursday presented a plan for a stopgap bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks, raising hopes of averting a looming shutdown of the agency. It is unsure how the Senate Democrats will react to this, but even if it passes it only delays another potential crisis situation.

USA Today breaks down what we know today about the potential DHS Shutdown from why and just how divisive the immigration amendments are to what will the House do if the Senate passes a "clean bill" and what happens if Congress doesn't agree by the Friday deadline.

NBC News reports that the Senate appears to be close to voting on a clean funding bill for DHS, but that it is unclear whether the House will also pass the bill or return it to the Senate with new amendments attached again. House Republicans will meet at 5 p.m. ET Thursday to discuss their strategy.

The National Journal reported Speaker of the House John Boehner won't budge on the DHS funding issue, but that he won't say whether or not the House would vote on a "clean bill" passed by the Senate.

The Washington Post writes that even the specter of a shutdown, no matter if it is averted before the deadline or not, will haunt DHS. "If Congress wants an efficient and engaged workforce in an agency this critical to our national security, it needs to do its part, too," the article says.

Wondering why a DHS Shutdown really matters when so many DHS employees are considered essential employees and will have to report to work anyways? CBS News highlights five things that will happen if Congress doesn’t fund Homeland Security.

Today Politico reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put forward a strategy that would separate the DHS funding vote from the immigration battle allowing one vote on funding DHS, which would last through September 30, and another vote on Friday regarding the immigration issues. Democrats are hesitant to accept though and are skittish about the clean bill’s prospect to pass the House.

Politico also highlighted TSA employee concerns about having to work without pay in today’s Morning Transportation newsletter. The New York Times writes that just over a year after the entire federal government shut down for 16 days in October 2013, Homeland Security officials are preparing for another worst-case situation.  The article talks about how the furloughs would impact TSA as many security screeners who will be working without pay will have to take on the administrative tasks of those deemed non-essential.

This Huffington Post article talks with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about the major problems out of the public eye that will occur if DHS shuts down.

In The Washington Post, Senator John McCain calls the ruling last week by a federal judge in Texas to stall President Obama’s executive action on immigration “an exit sign”. Republicans could use this as a way to fight the immigration actions without risking the shutdown of a critical agency, but it appears Republicans are divided on how to approach this.

Articles on business travel and the potential DHS Shutdown:

In Homeland Security Funding Standoff, Business Travelers Face Uncertainty - The New York Times

Lawmakers Look for Way Out of DHS Funding Impasse - USA Today

A New Security Headache – Gulliver Business Travel Blog – The Economist

Business Travel Group: Effects of Homeland Security Shutdown Could be Dire – Associations Now

Business Travel Group Warns of Financial Hit if TSA Funding Cut – Skift

Business Travelers Face Huge Disruption in USA - Conference and Meetings World

GBTA Alarmed by DHS Funding Fight’s Impact on Business Travel – Travel Industry Wire

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Week in Review

Skift interviewed GBTA’s Mike McCormick this week about the potential hit to the economy if the DHS funding bill doesn’t pass. “It means longer lines, disruption, and a risk of business travelers canceling trips,” McCormick said. Associations Now also weighed in on the potential for dire effects of a Homeland Security shutdown.

GBTA often talks about NextGen and modernizing the U.S. air traffic control (ATC) system. Well, according to Avionics Magazine, Australia is also looking to modernize their ATC system. A trio of Air Traffic Management service providers, Juliet Van Wagenen reports, has come together to update Australia’s aging infrastructure as skies crowd over the land down under.

Runway Girl Network reported that Malaysia Airlines is testing a new SITA flight tracking solution that will do more than simply address the rate and means of sending position reports from aircraft; it will ensure systems are in place at the carrier to process the reports and make the data more useful.

Continuing our look around the globe, China Daily wrote there appears to be no letup coming for business travel growth in China despite a slowing economy. The publication spoke with GBTA’s VP of Research Joe Bates who said even with China's economic growth slowing to about 7 percent that is still far more than most other countries adding that China is still poised to become the world’s largest business travel market in the coming years.

According to Business Traveller, India will include biometric testing as part of its visa application process beginning March 14. The country's high commission has announced that it will open more processing centers to cope with the upswing in demand and the increased time it will take to complete visa applications. Bart Jansen of USA Today reported on a proposal from asking the Transportation Department to cap change fees on international plane tickets at $100, although the department has rejected similar requests in the past.

GBTA is all about #Sharing this year as it is the theme of GBTA Convention 2015 and that includes the sharing economy. Entrepreneur talks about the sharing economy entering the business of business travel.

Finally, who doesn’t like lists? We leave you with 10 ways business travel is changing in 2015 and 25 ways to save money on business travel.

Remember to check back every Friday for the latest news in business travel.

GBTA Supports DOC, DHS Plan to Improve Inbound Air Travelers’ Experience

Last May, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum calling on the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security to establish a national goal and airport-specific action plans at our largest airports to enhance the arrivals process for international travelers to the United States. On Friday, DOC and DHS delivered on the next step in improving the traveler experience upon arrival into the United States.

Photo Credit: Nick Harris

Photo Credit: Nick Harris

The two agencies released a report to President Obama titled “Supporting Travel and Tourism to Grow Our Economy and Create More Jobs: a National Goal on the International Arrivals Process and Airport-Specific Action Plans.”

From the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Website:

The report defines a national goal that was developed through extensive consultation with leaders from the airline industry, airport authorities, state and local governments as well as other industry leaders in the customer experience space:

“The United States will provide a best-in-class arrival experience, as compared to our global competitors, to an ever-increasing number of international visitors while maintaining the highest standards of national security.”

Airport-specific Action Plans have been developed through close partnerships with airports, airlines and industry, and include significant steps to drive innovation to increase security while simplifying and streamlining the entry process at the top 17 airports.

GBTA released a statement in support of this plan and welcomes efforts by the DOC and DHS to improve the arrivals experience at airports for international visitors. Today, 15 percent of international visitors come to the U.S. on business trips, and as the U.S. economy grows this number will increase. Shorter lines, more efficient processes and better service all send a clear message: the U.S. is open for business.

Today’s report underscores that fact that failing to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security could have serious, unintended consequences for business travel, an industry that is expected to account for $310.2 billion in spending during 2015.

GBTA calls on Congress to work together to fund DHS, which supports the movement of people, goods and services throughout our transportation system.

Week in Review

Today GBTA announced its support for a Department of Commerce (DOC) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to improve inbound air travelers’ experiences. The report DOC and DHS released further underscores the fact that failing to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security could have serious, unintended consequences for business travel, an industry that is expected to account for $310.2 billion in spending during 2015.

Photo Credit: RJ Schmidt

Photo Credit: RJ Schmidt 

The Washington Post wrote about how what happened with the GSA workers in Las Vegas three years ago now stymies federal workers. The article says the restrictions are taking an unanticipated toll as employees at a wide range of agencies say the rules are gumming up the machinery of government.

USA Today reported on how some companies are encouraging thrift with a tool that enables employees to earn and cash in points based on what they save the company. Joe Bates, GBTA’s VP of research spoke with Charisse Jones for the article saying businesses have come up with a variety of strategies to encourage employees to be more cost conscious on the road.

Last week GBTA posted the latest news and resources when it comes to hotel WiFi practices. This week USA Today ran an article saying charging for wireless in the 21st century is as silly as it sounds demanding that hotel WiFi be set free. Skift also wrote about hotels this week and their new love for user reviews.

In big news for the business travel industry Expedia announced its acquisition of Orbitz. According to Business Traveler, while official approval by shareholders is still required, the Board of Directors for both companies have approved the transaction.

The Gulliver business travel blog on The Economist addressed airline safety issues as some recent high profile crashes “have led to whispers that perhaps Asian airlines don't have quite the same dedication to safety as their competitors in other regions”. Gulliver explains why this is silly and details airline safety in general.

In other airline news, the Department of Transportation released a report of its own saying tarmac delays drop to lowest number on record in 2014 according to USA Today. Hugo Martin of the Los Angeles Times tells us that the next trend in airlines could be narrower seats.

Hotel News Now reports certified conference centers are building business by catering to group needs for more customized and localized meeting programs, amenities and services driving a conference center rebound.

Want to make the most out of your next business trip? Forbes provides some business travel tips saying you need to channel your inner boy scout and always be prepared. Skyscanner also shares seven ways to make business trips more fun and less stressful.



Week in Review

GBTA sounded the alarm about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding battle this week. A DHS funding bill failed to pass a procedural vote this week raising concerns that it could result in serious, unintended consequences for business travel, an industry that is expected to account for $310.2 billion in spending during 2015. GBTA called on Congress to work together to fund DHS, which supports the movement of people, goods and services throughout our transportation system. Absent a full year funding bill, business travel can easily be disrupted, causing an immediate impact on our economy. For every one percent decrease in business travel spending, the U.S. economy loses an additional 71,000 jobs, nearly $5 billion in GDP, $3 billion in wages and $1.2 billion in tax collections.

capitol hill 4

USA Today reported on the cost to airlines and fliers for cancelled flights in the wake of latest winter storm which saw thousands of flights cancelled. GBTA’s VP of Research Joe Bates talked with Charisse Jones about the significant impact these types of extreme winter weather events can have on corporate travel.

Travel Pulse asked readers why should passengers pay for airport improvements in a piece opposed to an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). Forbes tells us that one the bright side, airfares won’t be going up much anytime soon thanks largely to the big drop in crude oil prices over the last seven months.

The Business Journals takes a look at the global business travel market and reports on why China is booming saying, “it's China's world now and the rest of us are just traveling in it”.

Back to the airlines, the Chicago Tribune reported on a new study released Monday that offers airlines, an often-hated industry, a simple secret to further their success and pad their bottom lines: Be nice. Skift writes about Jet Blue’s future plans which include bag fees and new types of fares coming in the second quarter. In China, low cost carrier Spring Airlines is issuing a new call for approval for standing seats on planes in hopes of cutting prices on tickets for passengers willing to stand.

Finally, Matt Alderton of Successful Meetings reports on how to negotiate with hotels in a seller’s market. A hotel boom does not have to spell trouble for group travel and meetings, he says.

Check back next week for more of the latest news in business travel. You can also turn to the GBTA blog as a resource on trending issues in the industry.

Staying Up to Date on Hotel Cancellation Policies

Earlier this week, I wrote about new hotel WiFi practices. Cancellations are another area where we are seeing changes in hotel policy that significantly impact business travelers.

Recently, Marriott and Hilton, two of the country’s largest hotel chains made broad changes to their cancellation policies. The new cancellation policies require that guests cancel their reservation by midnight the night before their stay, or else they incur a penalty equal to one night’s stay. This new policy replaces the longstanding practice of allowing guests to cancel a reservation as late as the evening of arrival.  Photo Credit: Nik Stanbridge

Photo Credit: Nik Stanbridge

Some hotels are offering flexible rates – for example you could purchase a hotel room in advance for a lower price with a no-cancellation clause built in or you could pay more for that same room with the ability to cancel without penalty the night before the reservation. Others are increasing cancellation rates based on when the room is cancelled: the closer to the day of the reservation, the more expensive it is to cancel it.

For business travelers this policy change presents unique challenges because we require a certain level of flexibility when booking business travel. To add to the complication, these policy changes are not across the board for all hotel properties within a brand, and individual hotels could require even more advance notice for cancellations.

Similar to what I wrote in the post on hotel WiFi, transparency is key. We do not want to tell a hotel how they should do business, but we would like for hotels to be clear about their cancellation policies so that business travelers can avoid incurring fees for reservations that are cancelled outside of the hotel’s appropriate time frame.

Before making a hotel reservation it is important to know the cancellation policy, since it may be different for individual hotels within the same brand. It is the responsibility of the hotel to ensure cancellation policies and any subsequent changes are well advertised and communicated to the traveler and travel managers alike in advance of purchase.

We anticipate that in the coming months more hotel chains will adopt more restrictive policies regarding cancellations and will be following this closely. As more news comes in, we will post updates to the GBTA blog to help keep you educated and informed so you can make the best possible decisions for your travel policy.

View the full brief on hotel issues with the latest information.

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Hotel WiFi: Keeping Road Warriors Connected

Connectivity is crucial for business travelers – and for many road warriors, that often means connecting to a hotel WiFi network. Free WiFi is one of the most coveted amenities: a survey of 8,600 travelers worldwide found just 11 percent would be willing to pay for Wi-Fi when staying in a hotel.

GBTA has queried its members before about what ancillaries they are getting from hotels through their negotiations for room rates. The item most commonly added into the negotiated rate is WiFi. A 2014 survey by GBTA found that 85 percent of companies with at least $10 million in spend negotiated free WiFi into their preferred hotel agreements, and 66 percent of companies with less than that negotiating for free WiFi. WiFi

This need to connect hasn't gone unnoticed: hotels are changing how they do business, and in some cases that could affect WiFi access. Some hotels, for example, are requiring travelers to book directly through the hotel site in order to get free WiFi while others are requiring travelers to book through online travel agencies. Some recent news on this:

  • Starwood will begin offering free in-room Internet service to members of its loyalty program who book their stay on the chain's websites or mobile app.
  • Loews Hotels and Resorts is now offering free Wi-Fi to all guests in their rooms, bucking the industry norm of charging for it, especially at higher-end properties.
  • Hyatt Hotels announced that it would begin providing free Wi-Fi in guest rooms and public spaces at all Hyatt hotels worldwide as of February 2015. Use of Wi-Fi will not be limited to members of its loyalty programs, as was previously done at some brands. Hyatt Gold Passport members will have access to premium Wi-Fi service at some properties.

In a free market economy, how hotels sell and market their product is a business decision, and they should be allowed to pursue their chosen business model. However, this must be done with transparency and hotels should make sure all policies are clear and known upfront. Hotels should also be discouraged from setting policies that drive consumers to specific sites for special offers. These practices create biases against loyal business customers.

When it comes to WiFi blocking however, the FCC has weighed in loud and clear that this will not be tolerated. This CNET article covers the FCC’s official statement, which says blocking an individual's personal hotspot, as hotels and convention centers have done, is against the law and subject to fines. Although Marriott backed off its plan to block WiFi, the FCC made it clear that they – or any other hotel – better not try it again. More recently, Marriott decided to withdraw as a party to the petition seeking direction from the FCC on legal Wi-Fi security measures.

GBTA will continue to follow developments in hotel WiFi and will keep you updated with the latest news and information so you can make educated decisions about your travelers and your travel policy.

View the full brief on hotel issues with the latest information.

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