The Business of Travel

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The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association


Week in Review

The long Memorial Day weekend is upon us indicating the unofficial start of summer. To shepherd in the busy travel season, The Economist reports on the perils of checking work emails while on vacation.

U.S. airlines and airports are spending millions on added workers to curb long security lines, as the coming Memorial Day weekend kicks off what’s expected to be a record year for summer travel, according to Bloomberg. Travel is supposed to increase by 4 percent this summer because of low airfares. With long lines at airports leading to traveler frustration and no apparent end in site, the TSA has removed its head of security, Kelly Hoggan, from his post, according to USA Today. The TSA said the move was not for any wrongdoing, but because the agency wants to take a “different approach.”

Experimental TSA screening lanes have opened for the first time according to CNN. The new lanes debuted at Atlanta’s Hatsfield-Jackson Airport and are aimed at curbing this year’s excessive wait times. Frequent Business Traveler reports that the TSA’s PreCheck program has been expanded to four additional airlines. The four new airlines participating in the program are Aeromexico, Cape Air, Etihad and Seaborne. The long TSA screening lines made 70,000 passengers and 40,000 bags booked on American Airlines miss flights this year according to Reuters.

Airlines are responding to one of the biggest complaints of the flying public: being stranded at the airport because of bad weather, the Wall Street Journal reports. New computer systems like Delta’s Viper and Southwest’s The Baker help rebook passengers, gives travelers alternate travel choices for new flights and can tap unpublished routes.

Digital Trends is reporting that a hacker stole close to $2 million in airline tickets through an email phishing scam. A Cameroon-born hacker was extradited to the U.S. after being arrested for targeting employees of several different airlines and travel companies in the U.S. with fake emails that requested their login credentials. Using the stolen credentials, he allegedly issued numerous flight tickets that he either used himself or sold to travelers in West Africa at a fraction of their actual cost.

Best Western is doubling down on its virtual reality marketing, according to Skift. By this summer, all 2,200 Best Western-branded hotels in North America will have a “Best Western Virtual Reality Experience” whereby travelers can see each property’s rooms, lobbies, and amenities virtually online before they even arrive at the hotel. Best Western has been working with Google Street View to develop the product over the last three years.

Lower Manhattan’s redevelopment is starting to compete with Midtown for the city’s healthy population of business travelers according to USA Today.

With close to 330 million licensed drivers, the car rental business in China is expected to grow by leaps and bounds according to the South China Morning News. There are currently 124 million private cars in China, and car rental companies and private car hailing companies are expected to fill the gap in the near future.

Your list for this week comes from Skift: 4 Charts Showing Millennials’ Thoughts on Loyalty and Direct BookingSkift.


An Olympian Economic Recovery for Brazil?

With Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, right around the corner, all eyes will turn southward to Brazil and the Olympic Games. While everyone hopes that the games are a success for the host country, Brazil’s economy and business travel industry have both gone through the proverbial ringer recently, and the forecast remains markedly pessimistic for the near term. This is one of the key findings from the GBTA BTI™ Outlook – Brazil 2016 H1 report that was released today and sponsored by Visa, Inc.

The new report has downgraded business travel in Brazil for the fourth consecutive time, with total business spending in Brazil set to decline by 8.5 percent this year. While the latest forecast cited multiple factors that are negatively affecting business travel throughout the country, there is also cautious optimism that 2016 will be the nadir of business travel before a modest recovery in 2017.

Leading up to the Games, Brazil is facing a time of domestic recession, slow global growth, lower commodity prices, underdeveloped infrastructure and numerous other concerns affecting the Brazilian economy. The business travel climate is feeling all of these pressures as well – with the only sign of optimism being that 2016 will be the low water mark for the Brazilian economy before the country sees a modest uptick.

Brazil’s economic prospects continue to worsen as the country attempts to weather the perfect storm of free-falling domestic activity, weak global growth, high inflation, deteriorating fiscal conditions and an uncertain political climate – all with the start of the Olympics in early August looming. Fourth quarter GDP produced the worst annual result since 1991. Despite all of its challenges, Brazil remains in the top ten of global business travel markets, though it may not remain there for much longer.

Some other key findings from the GBTA BTI™ Outlook – Brazil 2016 H1 include:

  • Brazilian GDP is expected to decline by -3.0 percent this year followed by an anemic increase of 1.3 percent in 2017.
  • Domestic business travel in Brazil continues to be hit the hardest by the Brazilian recession. The recession has been punctuated by recent political turmoil. Further, failing infrastructure, high levels of public debt and a hefty tax burden all cloud the longer-term prospect for domestic business travel in Brazil.
  • The Brazilian economy continues to suffer from longer term issues as well, specifically, extremely high levels of public debt and red tape, an overly-burdensome tax structure and poor infrastructure that have led to competitiveness woes.
  • Brazil continues to rank last among the top 15 business travel markets in the quality of overall infrastructure.
  • Given the country’s economic and political challenges, business confidence rests at record lows. The Business Confidence Index reported by the Confederacao Nacional da Industria (CNI) came in at 36.2 in April, a clear sign of business pessimism (50 represents neutrality).

In terms of business travel within Brazil, spending on Brazil-originated business travel totaled $30.5 billion USD in 2015, down -4.1 percent from 2014 levels. The downgraded forecast coincides with Brazil plunging into recession as the economy contracted -3.8 percent last year – its largest contraction in 25 years.

While these numbers paint a pessimistic picture of the state of the Brazilian economy generally and business travel specifically, fallout from the current political situation, a rise in commodity prices, and/or a successful summer Olympics could help the forecast improve, though these factors all remain unknown at this point. Even if Brazil does produce a successful Olympics, the latest BTI report indicates that the Olympics will have little to no effect on the business travel forecast as business travelers will likely reschedule their trips to not be caught up in the games. However, the economic and infrastructure improvements that the Games could generate for Brazil means that business travel throughout the country will be much more attractive in the near future.


GBTA Week In Review

With travelers and travel professionals of all stripes anticipating massive waits at the nation’s airports this summer, The Wall Street Journal reports on the TSA’s efforts to reduce wait times. Current wait times have become so long, that many passengers are missing their flights. The problem is expected to get worse as we enter the summer travel season.  

The GBTA recently shared some ideas on how to strategically shorten wait times stating that it strongly believes in risk-based programs and supports ways to expand enrollment in TSA’s PreCheck program.  

The long lines to get through security are responsible for 450 people being stranded overnight according to USA Today. The lines are the result of record numbers of travelers and a 10 percent reduction in TSA screening staff. TSA and the airlines say they are working together to find a solution.  

According to the Washington Post, the TSA is sending more officers and k-9 units to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, but is still recommending that passengers arrive three or more hours before their flight.  

If you are able to make your flight after waiting in the long, serpentine security lines, don’t expect in-flight announcements for connecting gate information if you are traveling on American Airlines. The carrier announced this week that it is eliminating such announcements as travelers are now equipped with their own connected devices, per Bloomberg.  

In another announcement, American Airlines said it is investing $4 million for contractors to help run and expedite its security checkpoint lines according to the New York Times.  

USA Today reports that Alaska Air and JetBlue are still the best airlines to travel with in 2016 based on a recent J.D. Power Customer Service Satisfaction Survey.   With all the apps and technology that help travelers make hotel reservations, Skift wonders why travelers still can’t book the exact hotel room they want, the way the can with their airline seat. The Hilton HHonors app is one of the apps that is trying to change this by letting people select their own room.  

What do Orlando, London and Singapore all have in common? They all ranked first in Cvent’s listing of the top convention cities in the world as reported by Skift. This year, the survey looked at different regions with these three cities taking the top spot in the America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions, respectively.  

Buying Business Travel reports that Business Class fares have dropped to a five-year low according to data from Flight Centre UK. The publication also reports that London is experiencing a boom in budget hotel rooms. Fifty percent of the hotel rooms that have opened since the 2012 Olympic Games are in the budget segment.  

The operator of bullet trains in Japan is opening an office in Texas according to the Dallas Morning News. The move comes as a plan to connect Dallas to Houston via bullet train is gaining both support and controversy.  

The U.S. car rental market continues to grow, and will reach $90 billion by 2020 according to the Market Research Store.  

GBTA is saddened by the loss of Egypt Air flight MS804 earlier this week over the Mediterranean. We extend our sympathies to all those affected by this recent tragedy.    

This Week’s Charts   https://skift.com/2016/05/18/the-future-of-international-luxury-travel-in-4-charts/- Skift


Strategically Addressing the Airport Security Lines

TSA is on the front lines of a battle and must strategically deploy its officers to protect the nation.

Reports and videos of lengthy airport screening lines are rolling in. GBTA has been in discussions with our membership about this since February and warned members in this video blog in March that we expected to see tighter security in the coming months, but had concerns this could cause longer lines without the benefit of added security. Now, an Egyptian airliner has disappeared and terrorism cannot be ruled out. This once again underscores the dangers of allowing people to queue up in long lines to go through security.

It would be absurdly funny if not for the danger, that the efforts to protect us are setting up soft targets for terrorists to cause devastation like what we saw in Brussels. It’s no secret that TSA is understaffed, but they also need to do a better job of utilizing the staff they have and managing their resources. Poorly trained agents and low staffing at peak times not only leads to painfully long lines, but could also present security concerns as well as evidenced by last summer’s leaked report showing security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials.

While the new TSA Administrator Admiral Neffenger has put in place new measures in an effort to bolster security, we feel there is more that can be done to improve both the safety and efficiency of airport security.

When looking at long-term solutions, GBTA strongly believes in risk-based programs and supports ways to expand enrollment in TSA’s PreCheck program. The House and Senate have both embraced this plan, but the different vehicles for passage are being held up. GBTA has called on Congress to include this language in the FAA Reauthorization and to pass it without further delay.

However, this will not impact today’s immediate security concerns. TSA, Congress and the air travel industry must address this as an all-hands-on-deck response as we all need to share the responsibility of supporting the efforts necessary to protect one of our nation’s most valued assets: safe and secure air travel. We’ve already seen airports and airlines pitching in to help manage queues. Local TSA officials need the flexibility and forethought on managing lines hour by hour.

TSA headquarters needs to ensure the officers on the ground have the intelligence and planning abilities to address these security threats. The battles can be won and the war concluded, if the right strategies are in place.


GBTA Week in Review

The Economist reported on the results of the latest GBTA China BTI results that showed that China is now the leading business travel market in the world.

This coverage rounded out a busy week for GBTA, which held its annual Legislative Symposium, where more than 100 GBTA members came to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers and advocate on behalf of the issues that affect business travel. Several of these, like passage of the pending FAAS legislation and fixing TSA’s pre-check policies were on the agenda.

Attendees got to hear from TSA’s CMO John Sammon, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and many others. Rep. Cohen and Senator Klobuchar were among several policymakers awarded the GBTA Navigator Award which honors his work on behalf of business travelers and the business travel industry.

Also during the Legislative Symposium, GBTA released its Rules of the Road, a new declaration of travel reform will make create a travel ecosystem that fosters growth, jobs, safety and efficiency around the globe.

The Rules of the Road declaration was highlighted in an Op/Ed in The Hill by GBTA’s Executive Director Michael W. McCormick. Mr. McCormick urges lawmakers to join with business travel professionals to make business to optimize the global business travel infrastructure—making it safer, more secure and more productive.

Airlines continue to reap the benefits of low fuel costs. San Antonio Express News reports that despite the increased savings to the airlines, no carriers have stated that they will phase out baggage fees, which generated close to $4 billion for the airlines last year.

The Wall Street Journal also looked at how airlines are benefitting from lower fuel costs reporting that Emirates full-year profits rose 56 percent due to lower fuel costs, which now constitutes 26 percent of the carrier’s operating costs.

Satisfaction with North American airlines rose for a fourth straight year, as well, measuring at a record high 726 points on a scale of 1,000 – a nine point jump over last year. While overall performance and satisfaction rose, complaints still found a way to increase by 38 percent, according to CNN.

With the deepening ties between Silicon Valley and London, British Airways has added a San Jose-London flight, whose inaugural flight took to the skies this week, according to USA Today. The new San Jose-London service supplements the carrier’s San Francisco-London service, and will use Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

If you happen to take advantage of the new San Jose-London route, you may want to consider traveling by train rather than by air once you land in Europe. New research from GoEuro found that traveling by rail rather than air saved passengers an hour or more for 10 of Europe’s most popular routes, according to Buying Business Travel.

Skift reports on the consequences that Marriott shared if the hotel chain had lost its bid for Starwood properties to China's Anbang Insurance Group. Marriott would have collected a $450 million breakup fee, in addition to $8 million in extra costs, from Starwood/Anbang, but it probably would have lost much more overall, in the long term, in the missed opportunity of becoming the world’s largest hotel company. Other details were also revealed at Marriott’s first quarter shareholder meeting, which was open to the public.

In terms of customer satisfaction, Skift also reported on the best hotels for customer satisfaction – with Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt taking the top three spots.

While U.S. hotel brands scored high in customer satisfaction, these same chains lack visibility overseas according to L2Daily.

Bloomberg shares tips on how to improve your hotel visit during business trips.

More and more hotels are aiming to give travelers a more authentic, home-feeling experience according to tnooz. This change is being lead by increased competition as well as traveler demand.

Your list for this week: 4 Charts on the Reality of Expenses in U.S. and UK Corporate Travel - Skift  


Rules of the Road: The Business Traveler's Declaration for an Improved Travel Experience

After welcoming more than 100 GBTA members to Washington, D.C. last night with a reception and a tour of the Capitol, today officially kicks off our 14th annual Legislative Symposium. Over the next two days, GBTA members will advocate for the future of the business travel industry and ask lawmakers to pass the FAA now, fix TSA PreCheck and oppose efforts to increase passenger facility charges (PFCs). The event includes educational sessions, Congressional speakers and more than 140 visits with Senators and Members of Congress.

GBTA's new Rules of the Road will play a major part in our advocacy efforts today and going forward. The article below on how this new declaration of travel reform will make create a travel ecosystem that fosters growth, jobs, safety and efficiency around the globe originally appeared in The Hill.

TheHillCongressBlog

The travel industry is a $1.25 trillion global industry. In the United States alone, it generates 3 percent of the U.S. GDP and supports 7.1 million jobs. U.S. companies will spend almost $300 billion this year as they send their business travelers on the road for more than 500 million trips. Yet the business travel experience is often overlooked.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has mobilized its members to develop a declaration of travel reform called the Rules of the Road. GBTA promotes travel safety and security, and that focus underlies the eight basic principles of the Rules of the Road. Because global business travel is more complex than ever before, the nation’s road warriors deserve this new set of principles. The Rules of the Road should guide industry, business leaders and policy makers in creating a travel ecosystem that fosters growth, jobs, safety and efficiency around the globe.

Above all, business travel professionals deserve safe and secure means of passage from start to finish. Among other key issues, the business traveler should not shoulder an undue tax burden. Too often, taxes on hotels, rental cars and other aspects of travel are used to raise funds that are not reinvested in the industry. This approach discourages business travel and thus ultimately reduces economic activity – a negative outcome for everyone. Rather than dissuade it with excessive taxes and fees, governments should promote business travel.

The business traveler deserves fair competition, clarity in fees and transparent communication from industry suppliers. From the time they leave their home until they return, business travelers should expect broadly accepted levels of comfort, choice, control, safety and expediency. New technologies offer opportunities for an improved travel experience. These technologies and new innovations need to be vetted, however, to ensure there is a positive impact on the travel ecosystem, including safety and duty of care. Connectivity has also become an indispensable technology for business travelers and should be developed and implemented wherever and whenever it is secure and responsible to do so.

As the travel industry consolidates, both domestically and globally, it is imperative that there continue to be a mutually beneficial relationship among buyers, suppliers and travelers. With profitability for suppliers comes market responsibility; they must address the issues of the companies that pay the bills and the employees that fly the miles.

GBTA will always ensure that the interests of the travel buyer, their companies and their travelers are well represented. The new Rules of the Road asks stakeholders in the business travel community and policy makers on Capitol Hill to take significant steps to optimize the global business travel infrastructure—making it safer, more secure and more productive.


TSA CMO Talks Expanding TSA PreCheck Enrollment at Legislative Symposium

John Sammon, chief marketing officer at TSA PreCheck spoke this morning at the 14th Annual Legislative Symposium, an event that brings more than 100 business travel professionals to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers to share opinions on key industry issues.

Sammon told the packed room that TSA PreCheck's goal is to have 25 million enrolled by 2019. The current enrollment is just over 7 million. Sammon announced that TSA was working on ways to boost enrollment, such as making PreCheck easier to purchase whether online or in person, working with outside organizations such as GBTA to help get the word out to its members and finally to put an end to managed inclusion, which was applauded by the attendees.

TSA Sammon

Sammon also cited GBTA research showing that the most important thing for travelers was ease in getting through security, which he said was another goal of TSA PreCheck. He concluded by answering attendee questions and listening to their comments on ways to improve PreCheck.  


Travel Advocate Rep. Cohen Speaks at 14th Annual Legislative Symposium

Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) spoke to over 100 attendees at the 14th Annual GBTA Legislative Symposium, an event that brings business travel professionals to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers to share opinions on key industry issues. Rep. Cohen spoke about his historical fight against discriminatory taxes on rental cars and discussed his new bill regarding airline seat sizes that is gaining momentum.

The new bill addresses both serious concerns related to the relationship between seat size and cabin safety. Regarding passenger comfort, Cohen made the crowd laugh when he said FexEx, which is based in Memphis, treats its packages better than airlines treat their customers. He commented that while comfort is important, seat sizes affect safety as well. Airlines need to be able to evacuate the aircraft in 90 seconds and the shrinking seat sizes impede that process.

Cohen Speaking

GBTA President Christle Johnson, Vice President Mark Ziegler and Executive Director Mike McCormick then presented Rep. Cohen with the inaugural GBTA Navigator Award. GBTA created the Navigator Award to honor Senators and Representatives who have been strong champions for business travelers and the business travel industry. award

Representative Cohen has been a longtime champion and the leading Democratic proponent for putting an end to discriminatory taxes on rental cars, which create an undue burden on business travelers and rarely are reinvested back into the travel industry.

In conjunction with the Navigator award, GBTA unveiled the Rules of the Road for optimizing business travel at its 14th annual Legislative Symposium. GBTA mobilized its members to create this declaration of travel reform to guide industry, business leaders and policy makers in creating a travel ecosystem that fosters growth, jobs, safety and efficiency around the globe.  


Rep. John Katko Speaks Passionately To GBTA Members About Travel Security

Rep. John Katko (R-NY) was a featured speaker today at the 14th Annual GBTA Legislative Symposium, an event that brings business travel professionals to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers to share opinions on key industry issues.

Rep. Katko spoke passionately about the bills he has worked so hard to get passed in the House. He said his subcommittee works tirelessly to attack problems and find sustainable solutions, which is evidenced by the fact that he is currently working on his eleventh bill being passed. He discussed security issues that affect opening passage into Cuba, working with TSA to be more innovative with their ideas, programs and vendors, and working with TSA to expand their PreCheck program to better utilize the program. He concluded his remarks with a candid Q&A session with GBTA members.

KatkoSpeaking

Rep. Katko was also presented with the inaugural GBTA Navigator Award by GBTA’s President Christle Johnson, Vice President Mark Ziegler and Executive Director Mike McCormick. GBTA created the Navigator Award to honor Senators and Representatives who have been strong champions for business travelers and the business travel industry.

GBTA chose Representative Katko for this award because of his efforts to hold TSA accountable and to improve passenger screening – and in particular, for the many bills his committee has worked on to improve TSA PreCheck as well as other aspects of the travel experience.

KatkoAwardPic

In conjunction with the Navigator award, GBTA unveiled the Rules of the Road for optimizing business travel at its 14th annual Legislative Symposium. GBTA mobilized its members to create this declaration of travel reform to guide industry, business leaders and policy makers in creating a travel ecosystem that fosters growth, jobs, safety and efficiency around the globe.


Rep. Mike Quigley Says Country Could be Safer if We are Smarter

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) spoke this afternoon at the 14th Annual GBTA Legislative Symposium, an event that brings business travel professionals to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers to share opinions on key industry issues.

QuigleySpeaking

Rep. Quigley began his remarks by saying how important travel is to the economy. He discussed the Visa Waiver Program and the importance of passing the JOLT Act. He spoke avidly about how the many security threats that face our country can be fixed if we as a nation would reprioritize certain programs to keep us safe. “Being safe is possible if we act smarter,” said Quigley.

GBTA also presented Rep. Quigley with the inaugural GBTA Navigator Award. GBTA created the Navigator Award to honor Senators and Representatives who have been strong champions for business travelers and the business travel industry.

QuigleyAward

Rep. Quigley has been a strong advocate on a number of travel issues, but his leadership on the Visa Waiver Program and the JOLT Act, which would improve and broaden the Visa Waiver Program, has been instrumental. A strong Visa Waiver Program protects America and promotes travel.

In conjunction with the Navigator award, GBTA unveiled the Rules of the Road for optimizing business travel at its 14th annual Legislative Symposium. GBTA mobilized its members to create this declaration of travel reform to guide industry, business leaders and policy makers in creating a travel ecosystem that fosters growth, jobs, safety and efficiency around the globe.