The Business of Travel

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The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association


Week in Review

This week’s round-up starts with raves and rants. Money reports on the most loved and hated airlines in America ranked by the number of passenger complaints. Southwest and Jet Blue found themselves among the most liked according to the report.

What do you look for from an airline? Skift reported on a SITA survey showing passengers want simpler tech solutions from airports and airlines. Tnooz covered the survey as well writing that desktop travel bookings will experience a rapid drop as mobile booking becomes mainstay. According to Travel Daily News, a recent Gogo study showed when it comes to in-flight connectivity, passenger interest is higher in Europe and the Middle East than the United States.

This week saw several travel mishaps and issues. USA Today reported that airline passengers faced flight chaos in Belgium on Wednesday after a "technical failure" at Belgocontrol, the nation's air traffic control provider. The failure disrupted the plans of tens of thousands of travelers. USA Today also reported on a series of anonymous phone threats against commercial airliners that forced searches of flights at New York's Kennedy Airport and authorities also scrutinized flights in Newark and Boston.

Do your travelers understand what to do if they need to get medical care in a foreign country? A new report says 60 percent of travelers from the United States say their health insurance either does not work or they are not sure if it works when traveling abroad.

Despite a weaker than expected economic performance in the first quarter of 2015, the U.S. hotel sector appears to be gaining momentum posting a solid demand performance and a year-over-year increase in revenue per available room of 8 percent, according to Business Traveler.

The GBTA Foundation and Project ICARUS opened a call for nominations for its European Outstanding Achievement Awards for Sustainability 2015 this week.

Your list for this week comes from Entrepreneur: Six Ways to Make Your Next Business Trip More Productive.  


Change It Up

*This post originally appeared as a ‘letter from Mike’ in Global Business Travel magazine volume three, issue two.*

We tend to think of disruptions negatively, as undesired events or activities. For business travelers, disruptions too often involve a loss of time and money. Thunderstorms can shut down airports and create cascading flight delays and cancellations. Wars and natural disasters can strand people and threaten their well-being. Political disruptions, such as the recent near-shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security over immigration-policy differences can create widespread problems.

From a different perspective, disruption can have immensely positive effects. In 1908, Henry Ford built his first Model T automobile. He also developed the first assembly line mode of production, a process that enabled the car to be made quickly and efficiently. This is a vehicle that was affordable for the masses. It revolutionized travel. Decades later, Howard Hughes designed increasingly efficient aircraft that made it possible to travel nonstop across continents and oceans.

Elon Musk, the subject of the magazine's cover story, is another such positive disruptor for the travel industry. He is one of our era's leading visionaries, who is best known as the head of Tesla Motors, a company that manufactures electric vehicles that can travel nearly 275 miles on a single charge and never use gasoline. He also is the founder of SpaceX, which develops and manufactures vehicles for transportation into space. The company's rockets have replaced the space shuttle and may well take the first people to distant planets. Musk is focused on the future of travel...to Mars! While electric cars and space travel represent potentially positive disruptions for the future, Musk already has achieved a lifetime's worth of positive disruption. He co-founded an online financial services and email payment company in 1999 that became PayPal, dramatically expanding the online retail universe.

Credit: NASA International Space Station

Credit: NASA International Space Station 

Disruptions such as these can have tremendous impact on our day-to-day lives, let alone for the business travel industry. Business travel professionals must confront a seemingly never-ending series of positive and negative changes affecting the way they facilitate in-person business interactions. At GBTA, we pride ourselves on keeping abreast of these various disruptions - helping our members respond appropriately within their own companies and organizations.

GBTA's annual Convention represents an opportunity for all our current and prospective members to learn about the latest issues affecting the business travel industry. This year's Convention will be held in Orlando, Florida, July 25 to 29. The location is particularly relevant to a discussion of disruptors, as Orlando is home to Walt Disney World. Disney is one of the world's most (positive) disruptive companies. It revolutionized the theme park industry. It set new standards in animated motion pictures. It has become a global media leader with its ownership of ABC Studios and ESPN. I encourage all of you to join us in Orlando, where we can continue the discussion on disruption.


Week in Review

The week in review is back this week wishing everyone a happy Memorial Day weekend! Let’s start with what not to do on your next business trip: USA Today reported that a man stripped naked in the Charlotte airport after becoming upset that his flight was overbooked. Ever wonder why America can’t have high speed rail? CNN’s Michael Smart writes it's unlikely the United States will ever see the vast network of high-speed trains that blanket other countries and tells us why he thinks that.

Photo Credit: Simon Pielow

Photo Credit: Simon Pielow

The Seattle Times reported on a new FAA cockpit email system that promises to reduce airline delays and is being touted as one of the most significant improvements to the U.S. air traffic system. Charisse Jones of USA Today writes this is the latest piece of NextGen, a program that is seeking new air-traffic control equipment and procedures to make air travel both safer and more efficient.

GBTA Convention 2015 made headlines this week announcing FOX News channel anchor Megyn Kelly as a featured speaker and unveiling another panel where executives will discuss differentiating brands in a sharing economy. GBTA also announced it has surpassed the 1,000 registered buyers mark and is expecting record attendance this July according to Travel and Tour World. MegynKelly_2015  

Ancillary fees are now commonplace on airlines, but USA Today looks into the future and talks about what the next big thing is for airline fees?

Successful Meetings reported on a GBTA Foundation study, sponsored by Concur Technologies, that shows an overwhelming majority of companies have risk management protocols in place to keep their business travelers safe.

GBTA voiced its displeasure at a shortsighted Congressional report released this week calling PFC increases a necessity to avoid “chaos” at airports. It wrongly assumes continued tax and fee increases for travelers will not impact the amount of money spent on travel. However, GBTA economic research clearly shows that for every 1 percent increase in price there is drop in demand of one-half to one percent.

Your list for this week highlights 10 airport workouts to keep you moving while you’re on the go.


Travel Risk Management Protocols on the Rise

A recent GBTA Foundation study released earlier this week showed an overwhelming majority (83 percent) of organizations that have travel risk management programs, have risk management protocols in place as part of their travel programs to ensure the safety and well-being of their business travelers. GBTA only expects this number to go up. Of those who reported not having travel risk management (TRM) protocols in place – 60 percent plan to adopt these within the next two years.

The high adoption rates of TRM protocols shows businesses are committed to keeping their road warriors out of harm’s way. It is also exciting to see technological advances such as apps and texting abilities changing the face of TRM programs by allowing organizations to better track and communicate with their employees. This lets the traveler focus on doing business rather than worrying about potential risks or mishaps.

The study, Keeping Travelers Safe Through Travel Risk Management (TRM), was sponsored by Concur Technologies and surveyed more than 250 travel managers, security officers and human resource personnel to gain a better understanding of how many organizations have TRM protocols in place as well as what features these programs include.

What does a typical TRM program consist of?

TRM protocols commonly include a variety of features. Seven of the eight features below are included in at least two out of five domestic protocols and at least half of international protocols.

TRMBlogPostPic1

How quickly can organizations locate all impacted employees when an incident occurs?

When it comes to locating travelers impacted by an emergency or a disruption, one-third (30 percent) of respondents say they can locate all impacted travelers in real-time when the need arises. Two out of five (20 percent) say they can locate travelers in 15-30 minutes and one-third (31 percent) say it takes more than 30 minutes. The estimated median time is 23 minutes, however, two out of five (20 percent) do not know how long it would take.

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TRM protocols make a big difference when it comes to locating travelers. Organizations both domestically and internationally that have TRM protocols in place generally locate all impacted employees much more quickly than those that do not.

Technology

Given that a majority of business travelers have a smartphone, it is not surprising SMS messages are used in order to communicate about an emergency. This type of channel ranks higher than mobile apps most likely due to its immediacy. Even though SMS messages rank higher than mobile apps though, the latter can be used in tandem as each have a unique use. While SMS can push a notification instantly and cannot be turned off like an app notification, it can carry a message to alert travelers to check the mobile app for further information. Organizations can take advantage of the high adoption rate of smartphone use by offering mobile apps that are useful to their business travelers.  

 

Having a sound TRM program in place helps ensure an organization can fulfill its legal duty of care obligations and also ensures employee safety and security – a win for all involved.


Convenience Trumps Cost for Business Travelers

New research released today by the GBTA Foundation and American Express looks into how U.S. business travelers feel about their travel experience and how those feelings affect their actual behaviors related to travel. The GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment Index™, in partnership with American Express, is a proprietary data-centered barometer based on business traveler’s attitudes toward several key components of business-related travel. These results will serve as a benchmark going forward to measure attitudes and feelings around business travel and will help provide forecasts for the upcoming year.

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Here are five key takeaways from the inaugural GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment Index™, in partnership with American Express:

  • U.S. business travelers put a high premium on convenience, particularly when it comes to their flight schedule choices. When booking flights, more business travelers say their top consideration is convenient flight schedules (36 percent) compared with ticket price (24 percent) and other airline perks. Time is money for business travelers, so it is not surprising they place such a high premium on convenience. While a more convenient flight or a hotel closer to a meeting may cost slightly more, it is worth it to the business traveler and their company if it allows them to be more productive and maximize their time.

 

  • Travelers are generally satisfied with business travel. Overall satisfaction with business travel is most strongly linked to travelers’ satisfaction with hotel stays and making their own travel arrangements, within their company policy. In fact, three-quarters or more of survey respondents are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with hotel stays for work (78 percent) and making their own arrangements (75 percent). Business travelers, however, are more disillusioned with airports and flights. Only slightly more than half of the business travelers surveyed are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” by airplane travel (57 percent) and getting through airport security (55 percent).

 

  • Connectivity is critical for travelers to be productive on the road. Nearly nine-in-ten travelers (86 percent) say access to Wi-Fi is “vital to work productivity while traveling,” and free access to Wi-Fi is one of the top items travelers believe all airlines should offer (26 percent), surpassed only by free checked bags (37 percent).

 

  • Frequent business travelers find tracking and managing expenses challenging. On average, travelers who took a dozen or more trips for work in 2014 were generally less satisfied with their ability to track receipts than travelers who traveled for work less often (on a seven-point scale, 5.6 mean among those who traveled 12 or more times vs. 5.8 mean among those who traveled four to 11 times in 2014). In general, nearly two-thirds of all business travelers are highly satisfied with processes they use to track expense receipts (65 percent) and complete expense reports (63 percent).

 

  • Most business travelers are comfortable with their companies’ travel policies, with 62 percent of business travelers surveyed saying they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their company’s travel policies. The majority of business travelers are also generally satisfied with their companies’ safety efforts, but there is room for improvement. Seventy-one percent of travelers “agree” or “strongly agree” that their employers care about their well-being and safety when they travel for work. Slightly more than half (56 percent) agreed that they “always feel safe” while traveling, and 55 percent said their desire to feel safe affects their travel choices.

Week in Review

The New York Times ran a special section this week dedicated to business travel. GBTA’s Mike McCormick was interviewed for input on multiple articles including business travel trends in today’s world of traveler centricity and continuing high airfares despite falling oil prices. The special section also hit on business travel to Cuba, mass transit, U.S. airports and so much more.

NerdWallet covered a new study from Expedia showing travel for small businesses has gone up in the last five years and younger business travelers are less budget conscious. One thing the study clearly showed:  “For small businesses, travel remains an important way of finding and closing deals as well as reaching clients and customers.”

In hotel news, group bookings are driving growth for hotels this year and occupancy rates at more expensive hotels are expected to reach their highest rates ever, according to a Reuters article. Hotel Marketing writes that among travelers who use mobile for booking, 50 percent do so for last minute or next-day stays. Fortune asks why certain luxury hotels are still charging for WiFi. Check out GBTA’s issue brief on hotels and WiFi for more information.

In global airline news, U.S. News & World Report writes that Emirates airline posted a $1.24 billion annual profit, a 40 percent gain driven by the rapid expansion of its business and helped by a drop in fuel prices. TIME reports that Chinese airlines are expanding rapidly into North America and for the first time ever more Chinese airlines will be flying to the United States than Amerian carriers will be heading to China.

GBTA Convention will be here before you know it and this week GBTA announced Kevin Bacon will be a featured speaker on Monday, July 27 at Convention Arena. Successful Meetings also covered GBTA’s new Corporate Travel Team Program debuting at this year’s Convention to provide more travel buyers with the opportunity to attend and get the Convention experience.

KEVIN BACON Photo- Credit Tim White

Is hands-free driving still a dream of the future? According to The New York Times, features like hands-free driving are months away, not years, leaving lawmakers and regulators scrambling to keep up.

What bugs you most about the travel aspect of business travel? According to the Los Angeles Times, a new survey out from Trip Advisor shows uncomfortable airline seats rank as travelers’ top gripe. Flight delays are always a hassle as well. In April, Southwest and Delta were the top U.S. airlines for on-time performance.

Your lists for this week both come from USA Today: 8 ways business travel is improving in 2015 and 5 airports with yoga rooms to let stressed travelers unwind.

Check back every Friday for a round-up of the latest news in business travel.


Week in Review

The week began with the tragic news of the earthquake in Nepal on Saturday that killed more than 3,700. Buying Business Travel reported that the Foreign Commonwealth Office warned against all but essential travel to the region. Our hearts go out to all impacted by this tragedy.

According to Aviation Pros, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a significant NextGen milestone with the completion of En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), a highly advanced computer system used by air traffic controllers to safely manage high-altitude traffic. This is a major step forward for NextGen implementation and the modernizing of the U.S. air traffic control system.

USA Today reported on first quarter earnings for the big U.S. carriers saying airline profits are soaring into the stratosphere and lower oil prices are likely the major contributing factor. Hugo Martin of the LA Times also reported on the record airline profits writing that the 2014 average domestic airfare - $391 – is this highest since 1995. Adjusted for inflation, however, the average fare is down 16 percent from the high of $467 in 2000, according to the federal agency, he wrote.

Photo Credit: Simone Ramella

Photo Credit: Simone Ramella

Fox News reported that tourism took a hit due to the riots in Baltimore writing that it’s too early to know the economic toll the unrest will have on the city’s growing tourism industry, but some have suggested it could be in the millions.

Politico reported in their Morning Transportation on the star lawmaker lineup coming to GBTA’s Legislative Symposium this week that included Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Reps. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA), John Katko (R-NY) and Sam Graves (R-MO). The Symposium saw GBTA members call on lawmakers to advance issues important to the business travel industry. GBTA was especially pleased to see Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), John Katko (R-NY) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY) introduce a bill that would end managed inclusion for PreCheck in the wake of this event.

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GBTA also found itself making news for announcing Star Alliance as a Gold Partner in its Gift of Knowledge Initiative to deliver business travel education to China.

In a local Arizona story, Phoenix Business Journal’s Brandon Brown spoke with GBTA’s Mike McCormick this week to learn how growth in business travel is driving Arizona tourism. "Travel is an investment, not an expense,” McCormick said.

USA Today reported that Chicago O'Hare International Airport has become the fourth facility in the United States to offer travelers access to the Mobile Passport Control app, which speeds the return of U.S. citizens back into the country.

In announcing changes to its frequent flier program, Delta says they are focusing on rewarding their highest-spending passengers, according to AJC.com. Find out how luxury hotels decide if you deserve a perk in this Wall Street Journal article that says hotel amenities are undergoing a transformation.

Hotel Marketing reports on rate parity saying it is under challenge and most industry observers believe it will soon either loosen up or disappear entirely. In other hotel news, Travel Daily News reports that over half of the world's hotels are now branded properties.

And this week, I will leave you with two lists: Six quick hacks to make business travel easier from Inc. Magazine and eight critical concepts for corporate travel from BizBash.

Check back every Friday for a round-up of the latest news in business travel!


Bill Introduced to End Managed Inclusion for PreCheck

Today, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), John Katko (R-NY) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY) introduced a bill that would end managed inclusion for PreCheck, a practice where Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents allow travelers to use PreCheck lanes when they have not been properly vetted.

GBTA, while a strong supporter of programs like TSA PreCheck, has been calling for an end to this practice for some time now. In order for the program to be truly secure, all passengers must go through the same vetting process, so it’s time to put an end to this practice, which confers all the benefits of PreCheck without requiring any of the burdens.

GBTALegSymposiumPic

GBTA was especially pleased to see this legislation come just one day after nearly 100 GBTA members and business travel professionals traveled to Washington, D.C., to call on their lawmakers to end managed inclusion. The business travel industry voice was heard!

The 13th annual GBTA Legislative Symposium held in Washington, D.C. this week saw GBTA members call on lawmakers to oppose a proposed increase in the passenger facility charge (PFC), end the practice of managed inclusion in TSA PreCheck lanes and put a stop to discriminatory car rental taxes.

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The Legislative Symposium kicked off with nearly back-to-back discussions with top lawmakers on key travel issues, ranging from PFCs to improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure to the important link between business travel and growth in our economy.  Lawmakers and Administration speakers included Isabel Hill, Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office within the U.S. Department of Commerce, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Reps. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA), John Katko (R-NY) and Sam Graves (R-MO).

Katko

You can find a full recap of day’s events right here on the blog:

GBTA Kicks off Legislative Symposium 2015 with Education Session

Legislative Symposium Continues with Congressional Overview

Legislative Symposium: Keeping the Momentum Going at Home

Senator Klobuchar Talks Travel & Tourism Issues at GBTA Legislative Symposium

Rep. Diaz Balart says No to PFCs at GBTA Legislative Symposium

Office Seeks to Make Travel & Tourism Easier

Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Congresswoman Frankel

Improving Amtrak

Rep. Katko to Introduce Legislation Ending Managed Inclusion in PreCheck

LegSympsosiumTour

Thank you to all of our GBTA members who joined us this week and made your voice heard on Capitol Hill!