The Business of Travel

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The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association


Single-Use Virtual Accounts Gaining Popularity Among Business Travelers

Today, the GBTA Foundation released a new study on virtual payment solutions sponsored by U.S. Bank. The following press release went out announcing the new report:

Majority of Suppliers Accepting Virtual Payments

About 20 percent of American businesses today pay for travel using cardless single-use “virtual” accounts, up from 13 percent last year, according to a new study by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). Meanwhile, the survey found that a majority of travel suppliers are accepting single-use virtual accounts -- 53 percent. This gain in popularity for a relatively new payment method likely stems from an increase in marketing and educational efforts by the industry. USBanksPicChart

The Buyer and Supplier Outlook on Virtual Payment Solutions study, sponsored by U.S. Bank, surveyed more than 220 U.S. travel buyers and travel suppliers to gain a better understanding of which types of business travel payment solutions they prefer. The results confirm the growing popularity of virtual payment solutions, with those buyers who have adopted single-use account solutions reporting satisfaction with the controls, compliance and data reconciliation benefits that the technology delivers.

Unlike more traditional central billing solutions such as Central Travel Accounts, single-use virtual accounts use a unique account number created and authorized for a specific transaction amount, date of use and merchant category. When a traveler makes a booking, the travel supplier receives a unique account number, and must charge the account within a designated time frame and for a designated amount.  Following payment, an automated reconciliation process matches the travel booking with the transaction. The process reduces paperwork, potential errors and labor costs while producing a transparent view of travel spend for supplier and buyer alike.

Although usage is growing, the findings suggest opportunities for process enhancements that would drive greater adoption. Approximately one-third of travel buyers still report a lack of familiarity with single-use virtual account solutions. Suppliers who don't currently accept single-use account payments express concern about confusion at the point of sale, indicating a need for the industry to find a better way to transmit account information from booking systems.

“Advances in payment solutions and the growing popularity of virtual payments represent a positive trend for travel buyers,” said Joseph Bates, GBTA Foundation vice president of research. “These new payment solutions provide travel buyers and suppliers with increased control and improved efficiency of payment processing, all while making the traveler experience more hassle-free.”  

“The survey findings show promising growth in adoption of single-use accounts for travel payment,” said Mary Miklethun, head of Large Market Commercial Card Product & Marketing for U.S. Bank. “At the same time, they underscore the opportunity to keep customers updated about the financial and security benefits of virtual payment technology and tee up even stronger growth.”

Key Findings

Other key findings within the report include:

  • Travel buyers tend to use more than one type of payment method, with 82 percent using two or more payments and about two-thirds using virtual payment methods alongside corporate card programs.
  • Although a minority of travel buyers use single-use virtual accounts currently (20 percent), among those who do, they tend to be satisfied. Some travel managers are particularly satisfied with elements such as controls and compliance, data reconciliation and management capabilities and security and protection from fraud/misuse. By comparison, a larger percentage of Travel Suppliers accept single-use virtual accounts (53 percent) and are also satisfied with the process.

Future Opportunities for Single-Use Virtual Accounts

Among non-users, travel buyer familiarity with single-use virtual accounts is on the upswing. In the 2014 study, only 23 percent of travel buyers said they were “familiar” or “very familiar” with this type of account. Today, that number stands at 39 percent and with increased education and marketing there is an opportunity for that to continue to increase.

According to the survey, if buyers’ rates of implementation of single-use virtual payment accounts increases to match suppliers’ adoption rates, we could see marked growth – possibly in the near future – in this industry segment.

Methodology

The current study is based on an online survey of 229 U.S. respondents, of which 65 percent are travel buyers and the majority of remaining respondents are travel suppliers (30 percent). All respondents have some level of responsibility in making decisions about payment solution providers and policies.

Bates and Miklethun will delve into greater detail on the study’s findings in an education session at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 28 as part of GBTA Convention 2015 in Orlando.

The study, Buyer and Supplier Outlook on Virtual Payment Solutions, is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org.


Ground the Travel Tax Hike

Yesterday, a GBTA op-ed appeared on The Hill’s Congress Blog about our opposition to an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) – yet another tax on business travelers. Road warriors strengthen the economy, create jobs and drive economic security. Travel should be promoted, not hit with never-ending taxes and fees.

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Here is an excerpt from the piece where we ask Congress to #StopTheTravelTax:

The U.S. economy in May added 280,000 jobs, and job-seekers appear to be moving back into the workforce.  That’s a welcome relief, especially after the U.S. Department of Commerce reported last month that economic growth in Q1 2015 shrank by 0.7 percent.  Clearly, our economy is still fragile, and we must do more to create an environment that supports growth.

That’s why it’s puzzling that President Obama and some Republicans and Democrats in Congress would band together in an unlikely alliance to push for a massive hike on business and recreational air travelers – to the tune of $2.3 billion every year.  This is simply a tax increase on travelers by another name, which will slow airline travel, and by extension, slow economic growth. Let’s not ground the economy with an unneeded, ill-advised tax.

Head over to The Hill’s website to read the full article.


New Whitepaper Unveils Best Practices for Increasing Efficiencies with eRFPs

Yesterday, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Meetings Committee and the Convention Industry Council (CIC) APEX Workgroup (APEX) released a new joint whitepaper, Improving eRFP Efficiency and Effectiveness for the Meetings Industry. The following press release went out announcing the new resource:

The whitepaper combines findings from complimentary research conducted by the two groups in 2014 examining eRFP use, drivers and effects to provide recommendations for improving the eRFP process.

GBTA conducted an online survey of 412 buyers, suppliers and third-party agencies in March of 2014 that looked at the impact of eRFPs on buyers, third parties and suppliers. CIC’s research included 20 interviews with individuals representing a cross section of planners who source locations for events and was conducted by Terri Breining (Breining Group) and Mariela McIlwraith (Meeting Change).

Use of electronic Request for Proposals (eRFPs) to source hotels and venues has boomed in recent years. This joint whitepaper focuses on trends in eRFP use from the perspective of all constituencies involved in the sourcing process including corporate/association buyers, hoteliers, third party buyers, meeting management companies, meeting technology companies and convention & visitor bureaus. While this has brought many benefits to the meetings industry, it also brings significant challenges due to the high volume of eRFPs issued, which are outlined in the whitepaper.

“eRFPs are clearly a positive tool for the meetings industry, but there is no question that in recent years their rapidly growing use has created significant challenges,” said Shimon Avish, GBTA Meetings Committee Member and Principal of Shimon Avish Consulting LLC. “We were pleased to work with CIC’s APEX Workgroup to create this whitepaper identifying the next steps to making the eRFP process more efficient and effective in an effort to continue to bolster the meetings industry.”

The whitepaper reveals several emerging best practices to reduce the number of eRFPs coming to market and increase satisfaction of all stakeholders involved in the process:

  • Education – sourcing professionals must educate buyers on the impacts of over-issuing eRFPs as well as the benefits of both research to ensure appropriate hotels/venues are sourced and the importance of providing complete information.
  • Processes – adopting standardized templates and better communications are among the ways to improve processes in dealing with eRFPs.
  • Limits – limits can be imposed through policy or technology to keep the number of eRFPs down.
  • Technology Solutions – technology can be used to facilitate lead management processes for hotels/venues.
  • Alternate Technology Models – alternate models can cut reliance on supplier payments to the meeting technology system or in certain cases can allow for a touchless booking system that completely eliminates the need for an eRFP.

“We are grateful we could put together the work and conversations from two independent industry workgroups into one whitepaper which articulates our collective issues and opportunities,” said Christine "Shimo" Shimasaki, CDME, CMP, Chair of CIC’s APEX Workgroup on eRFP and Managing Director of DMAI’s empowerMINT.com. “Now the real work begins as we educate both buyers and sellers and strive towards more efficient processes.”

Industry professionals can find the whitepaper and additional resources on both the CIC website and the GBTA Hub.


Week in Review

It was a busy week for business travel news! On Monday, U.S. News & World Report wrote the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger as the new leader for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by a vote of 81-1. GBTA urged the new TSA administrator to conduct a top-to-bottom independent review of the organization.

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Carry-on bags stayed in the news this week after GBTA and others last week called for IATA to permanently scrap their proposal to decrease carry-on baggage size by 20 percent. Travel Daily News reported on a GBTA poll showing travel managers overwhelmingly opposed IATA’s guidelines. Scott McCartney, Middle Seat blogger for The Wall Street Journal wrote about the carry-on bag dilemma saying airlines are promising something they can’t deliver. He interviewed GBTA’s Mike McCormick for the article who called it death by a thousand fees saying it’s not just the issue of carry-on bags itself, but the underlying issues of airlines continually raising prices and adding more fees to the pile.

The Guardian reported that over the weekend around 1,400 passengers of the Polish airline LOT were grounded after hackers attacked the airline ground computer systems used to issue flight plans. A USA Today article warns that this can happen to anyone.

On The Hill’s Congress Blog, GBTA’s Mike McCormick writes about why GBTA opposes a PFC increase.

In hotel news, Travel Daily News reported on a recent survey showing travelers prefer to stay in eco-friendly establishments. They also ran a story on a recent YouGov survey showing a staggering nine in ten (89%) hotel guests across North America said they now want stay-enhancing tech; and it looks like beating queues and quicker service are the driving forces behind it. When it comes to technology in the skies, Skift reports that United wants to improve its connection to passengers by turning to technology.

How quickly do things change in a global economy? The GBTA Foundation for the second time revised its forecast for business travel spend in Brazil down as the country looks to face a tough 2015 before rebounding next year.

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IATA confirmed Ryanair is the world’s favorite airline as they carried more international customers than any other airline. USA Today told us what airports you can expect the longest walks from gate-to-gate in.

Travel Daily News reported on a CWT survey showing five key trends transforming business travel. Hotel Marketing looked at how the travel sector can more effectively target online travelers. And, Successful Meetings covered a new whitepaper from GBTA and CIC providing best practices to increase efficiencies for eRFPs.

Finally, I leave you with two lists this week. First, from USA Today - 8 energy hacks to help you survive those 5 am wake up calls for early flights along with Hotel Marketing’s top five trends in mobile travel booking.


Italy: An Economic Struggle Hurts Business Travel

Poor economic prospects continue to take their toll on the Italian business travel market according to the recent GBTA Foundation Western Europe business travel forecast. Italy’s labour and markets continue to lack the structural and political reforms necessary for getting the economy back on its feet.

Spending on business travel in Italy only grew 1.3 percent in 2014 to $31 billion USD. While the direction of business travel is projected to remain positive in 2015 for Italy, it is the slowest growing market in our Western Europe forecast with projected growth of only 1 percent. The outlook is only slightly better for 2016 as business travel spending is expected to advance 1.8 percent.

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Also, check out the 5 Key Takeaways from the entire Western Europe forecast.


Brazil Business Travel Facing Significant Headwinds in 2015

Today and tomorrow, GBTA is hosting its 3rd annual GBTA Conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil bringing together travel buyers and suppliers in Latin America. Attendees will be able to network, build relationships, discover new opportunities and trends in the corporate travel market and learn best practices for travel management.

Conference attendees will also hear industry insights from various industry leaders including a presentation from GBTA’s VP of Research Joe Bates on the latest GBTA Foundation business travel forecast for Brazil.

Released today, the report shows Brazil’s economy will face significant headwinds in 2015 before rebounding in 2016. The struggling domestic economy in Brazil coupled with the lack of significant infrastructure improvements and the troubled regional economy have led GBTA to downgrade its business travel spending forecast for Brazil for the second straight time. After reaching $32 billion USD in 2014, business travel spending will grow only 1.8 percent this year, down from the 2014 projection of 4.1 percent. BrazilPIC_BTI2015H1

The Brazilian economy and business travel in the region are certainly facing significant headwinds in 2015. For one, accelerating inflation during a period of slow economic growth is causing many growing pains for Brazil’s economy and natural causes are also continuing to drive inflation – particularly the acute water shortage. Brazil’s reservoirs are at historically low levels and are on par with the worst month of 2001 when Brazil was forced to ration electricity. Electric rates are expected to rise as much as 30 percent this year further contributing to inflation.

While falling oil prices are good news in many parts of the world like the United States and Europe where they are driving down inflation, this is not the case in Brazil where energy prices are primarily controlled by the government. Thanks to fallout from the bribery scandal at Petrobras along with Brazil’s fiscal challenges, administered fuel prices have been allowed to continue to rise.

This slow-down in growth has led Brazil’s business travel market to backslide to the eighth spot in the global spending rankings – falling from number seven. It is not all bad news for Brazil though. In 2016, improved economic growth, particularly from exports and investment will support some improvement in business travel spending leading to 5 percent growth exceeding $34 billion USD. Also, the 2016 Olympics should provide a confidence boost and a significant windfall to Brazil’s tourism sector. That combined with improved economic growth, lower inflation and a stronger global economy should lead to a stronger business travel market in 2016.


Spain Surprises with Strong Business Travel Growth

The Spanish economy was one of the most challenged in Western Europe from 2011 through 2013 as it battled high levels of public debt, soaring unemployment and stagnating economic growth. The latest GBTA business travel forecast for Western Europe shows a surprising turnaround for the country however.

Spain has exhibited a remarkable economic turnaround driven by the banking sector and stabilization of public debt – and fortunately, business travel has followed suit. Spending advanced 6.8 percent in 2014 and we expect it to continue to grow another 7.7 percent this year reaching $19.4 billion USD.

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Growth will moderate in 2016, but we still expect 5.4 percent growth in total business travel spending. While the initial business travel recovery was driven by international outbound spending which grew 14.4 percent in 2014, domestic business travel will now take over and account for the majority of the growth in business travel spending for the rest of 2015 and 2016.

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Also, check out the 5 Key Takeaways from the entire Western Europe forecast.


GBTA Urges Incoming TSA Administrator To Conduct Independent Top to Bottom Review

Last night, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm President Barack Obama’s choice of Peter Neffenger to be the next head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by a vote of 81-1. GBTA issued the statement below calling for a top-to-bottom review of TSA.

First Order of Business for New TSA: Right The Ship

On Monday night, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm the nomination  of Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to lead the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This comes in the wake of a report leaked on an internal investigation of TSA 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.

More than 40 million business trips, most of which require air travel, occur each month. Passenger facilitation is vital to business travel which supports 8 million jobs. If the current reports of TSA failures are left unresolved, it will lead to future breakdowns that have the potential to devastate the country’s economy and the travel industry.

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“To understand the urgency and the importance of what must happen at TSA to right the ship, we have to accept that one, the ongoing health of our economy is based upon the success of TSA’s mission; and, two, the current state of TSA operations has evolved to a level of unacceptable risk that cannot be corrected with incremental improvements,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO.

GBTA calls for TSA to fulfill its mission and optimize both passenger security and efficient passenger processing. The first order of business should be to call for a comprehensive study of TSA operations. This review should fully evaluate how passengers and baggage are processed using outside private and public sector experts capable of recommending the right balance of the different airport configurations, associated technologies and PreCheck-type operations to maximize passenger processing and screening.  This should also include an immediate cessation of using managed inclusion as a part of passenger screening. Only a fully vetted population should qualify for PreCheck benefits.

“We must all share the responsibility of supporting the efforts necessary to protect one of most valued assets: safe and secure air travel,” said McCormick. “This is not a time for finding fault, but working to lower the overall risk profile and increase efficiency at TSA.”

GBTA looks forward to working with the incoming Administrator and will continue to offer our full support on behalf of the business travel industry to ensure air travel is safe and efficient for our future.


France: Slow but Steady Growth

GBTA’s recent forecast for business travel in Western Europe shows the French economy continues to have one leg in the northern tier and the other in the southern periphery. Still, business travel spending began to gain momentum in 2013 and continued to advance in 2014, albeit at a modest rate of 2%.

Francepic1_WesternEuropeBTI2015H1

After slowing to 0.6% in 2014, domestic business travel spend is expected to grow 3.2% in 2015. Like other countries in Western Europe facing a weakened global economy, international outbound growth will be less reaching 2.5 percent in 2015.

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GBTA expects overall growth in France will continue to be muted with total business travel spending expanding 3 percent in 2015 and 4 percent the following year hitting $38.6 billion USD.

Also, check out the 5 Key Takeaways from the entire Western Europe forecast.


GBTA Says Proposal to Slash Carry-on Baggage Size Must Be “Permanently Scrapped"

Yesterday, we announced that we were pleased IATA put on hold its proposal to reduce the size of carry-on baggage by 20 percent. After polling our Members we now believe the proposal should be entirely scrapped. We released the statement below this morning that includes our polling data along with a comment from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

New Poll Shows Overwhelming Opposition

Three-quarters (74 percent) of travel managers oppose IATA’s recently recommended guidelines that standard carry-on baggage sizes be reduced to dimensions about 20 percent smaller than what most major airlines currently allow according to a poll of travel managers conducted by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association.

Wednesday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) put this recommendation on hold and now GBTA believes it should scrap the proposal entirely.

“This new data demonstrates overwhelming opposition to the IATA proposal from business travelers, and the proposal should be permanently scrapped, once and for all.  If enacted, this proposal gives business travelers the option to buy a new bag or pay for checked luggage – either way there is yet another added fee,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO. “This clearly struck a chord as it goes beyond the issue of just decreasing the size of carry-on baggage, it is symbolic of the constant cost pressure the airlines are putting on the business traveler.”

In a press conference on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) railed against the proposal saying it will not only put a dent in family’s wallets, but will also hurt business travelers. GBTA Members agree with the Senator as 64 percent of travel managers say the new guidelines would dramatically impact their business travelers and an additional 31 percent say their travelers would be somewhat impacted.

“I am pleased that the International Air Transport Association has heeded the call and plans to reassess its proposal, which could shrink a traveler’s carry-on luggage by more than twenty percent,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “Many travelers have had their go-to bag for years, and this policy could have forced passengers to purchase new luggage or instead pay extra to check their luggage. It is good news that this plan has been stalled, and I will continue to press the airline industry to ensure that proposals that could hurt consumers never get off the ground.”

Methodology
This survey of travel buyers living in the United States and Canada was conducted online between June 17-18, 2015. In total, 292 individuals were invited to participate in this study via email with 78 responses for a response rate of 27 percent.