The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

GBTA Brings Business Travel Education and Networking to India

During Convention, GBTA India’s new regional director, Gaurav Sundaram, joined us at the GBTA Broadcast studio to talk about what lies ahead for the region when it comes to business travel.

In April, we announced the launch of GBTA India as part of our continuing global expansion. Gaurav shared three primary objectives for the upcoming year: create a robust India chapter with 300 members, deliver a world-class Symposium with quality education and networking and support advocacy issues in the business travel domain in the region.

View the full video below to learn more about what he sees as GBTA’s role in the region.

Next week, GBTA will bring together Indian business travel buyers and suppliers for a day of education and networking at the GBTA India Business Travel Symposium on September 6 in New Delhi. Check GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s Convention.

Week in Review

The U.S. State Department has just issued a travel alert advising citizens to refrain from traveling to regions of Ethiopia due to political unrest and anti-government protests. Shortly after, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added the Bahamas to their list of travel notices for Zika. Travel + Leisure reports local mosquito transmission of Zika has been confirmed in the Bahamas region. The CDC also continues to advise pregnant women to avoid the Wynwood and Miami Beach areas in Florida, according to the Miami Herald.

Boeing is developing a new technology that would enable airline passengers to control their environments using a mobile app on their smartphones. Skift reports the technology could allow passengers to operate their overhead lights, call flight attendants, check the status of restrooms and order food and drink.

On the mobile front, a recent study shows that few corporate travel companies have mobile strategies in place. Skift shares findings from a study by the GBTA Foundation in partnership with Carlson Wagonlit Travel and the Carlson Family Foundation in which nearly 70 percent of travel buyers said their travel policies did not include a mobile strategy. Of that group, 45 percent reported that their companies planned to adopt a strategy within the next two years, and for good reason, as a majority of searches for travel-related terms begin on a mobile or tablet device. According to Tnooz, a recent analysis of the web activity of nearly three million British shoppers found that 60% of travel searches originate on a mobile device.

Travel Daily News finds new research revealing passengers’ deciding factors when picking an airport. A variety of factors are taken into account, such as efficient security (77 percent), easily accessible parking (48 percent), food and beverage offering (44 percent) and more. The study also found that 58 percent of Millennials enjoy the airport experience, compared to only 42 percent of baby boomers.

Delta will be operating exclusively at Heathrow Terminal 3 as of 14 September. According to Buying Business Travel, the airline will transfer all of its flights from Terminal 4, enabling fliers to manage their travel more easily. Japan’s biggest airline ANA has decided to start grounding its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, after discovering complications with its engines. The Guardian reports this change could lead to the cancellation of at least 350 flights through the end of next month alone.

Bloomberg finds the biggest cause of U.S. flight delays is airline miscues, not the weather. Almost six out of 100 flights were delayed last year due to mechanical breakdowns, lack of flight crews, and other factors attributed to airlines, making airline miscues the largest category of delay in 2015. Travelers at LaGuardia Airport faced some hiccups this week, with gridlock preventing them from getting in and out of the airport. Travelers were seen dragging their luggage along Grand Central Parkway to the airport in order to avoid missing their flights, CBS Local New York reports.

Backpackers are being replaced by business travelers at refined hostels around the world. According to Bloomberg, hostels are starting to cater to business travelers with smart designs and private rooms. Aloft Hotels has just introduced voice-activated room service to its U.S. properties in Boston and Santa Clara. Tnooz states guests can use an in-room iPad to issue voice commands, ranging from “Siri, cool the room” to “Siri, what are some of the attractions near me?”

Global business travelers have a new option for accommodations today, following the soft opening of Jakarta’s tallest hotel The Westin Jakarta which offers 360-degree views of the city. Travel Daily News shares that there are 541 new hotels being developed across the Middle East, which is projected to bring an additional 158,590 hotel rooms to the region. The source notes that a majority of the rooms will open by 2020. Residents of Singapore can now hail self-driving taxis with their smartphones, and Bloomberg notes this is the world’s first public trail of driverless technology.

In honor of the National Park Service celebrating its 100th anniversary this month, this week’s list comes from USA Today: 10 Great International National Parks

Smart Data, Not Big Data

In a Forbes article today, author and Forbes contributor Bernard Marr wrote, “Big data is sexy.  Data scientists are the unicorns of the job market right now. Some days, it feels as though we are living right on the edge of some science fiction utopian future. But unicorns and sci-fi aside, for businesses, implementing something like a big data strategy has to be more than sexy: it has to be practical.”

During Convention 2016, GBTA Executive Director and COO Mike McCormick sat down with Travel Leaders Corporate President David Holyoke at the GBTA Broadcast Studio. David shared his insights on pushing the boundaries in the travel industry, blending service and technology and, of course, data and analytics.

“Some people say big data, we like to talk about smart data," David said during the interview. "It’s taking data to a behavioral analytical standpoint, making sense of why decisions were made – good or bad or indifferent – how that’s impacting a program, and growing from that.”

Check GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s Convention. *Travel Leaders Corporate sponsored the GBTA 2016 Broadcast Studio.

Demystifying Zika and Mitigating Risk for Business Travelers

As new cases of Zika have arisen in Nassau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just added the Bahamas to its list of travel notices. The recent Zika outbreak has worried business and leisure travelers alike, prompting GBTA’s Risk Committee to host a webinar called Demystifying Zika and the Real Cost of your Employee’s Health When Traveling.

Physician Assistant and Assistant Medical Director Reade Bush shared insights about the virus and its introduction to the Western Hemisphere in the past year. Areas most affected are throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and portions of South America and the Pacific Islands. U.S. officials feel the cases are fairly well contained, and the virus will not spread more widely within the country. Those traveling to high altitudes are generally safe, due to the lack of mosquitos in those environments.

Zika can be transmitted by mosquito bites, blood transfusions, from mother to child, and sexually, but the spread tends to happen through humans traveling. The primary concern is its effect on pregnant women, as it can cause microcephaly and severe fetal brain defects, among other complications. Bush recommended various precautionary measures, as there is no vaccine or treatment for Zika. He suggested avoiding travel to Zika-infected areas if possible, using mosquito repellant, wearing long sleeves and pants, and refraining from being outside in the early morning or late afternoon when mosquito bites are more prevalent.   

Since Zika is a foreseeable risk, International SOS’ Group Executive Vice President Tim Daniel advised companies to have plans in place to deal with unexpected emergencies. Daniel continued saying organizations must take adequate measures where there are known risks, especially from a duty of care perspective. From a duty of loyalty perspective, employers must ensure travelers understand the key risks before traveling to Zika zones. Employers must also educate travelers and enable them to take advantage of preventative measures.

GBTA members may view the webinar in full here. Here are a few of GBTA’s upcoming webinars:

The full schedule of upcoming webinars is available here.

Moving Beyond Apps: Making Mobile More Strategic

A large majority – almost 7 in 10 (69 percent) – of travel professionals indicate their travel program does not have a mobile strategy in place, according to new research by the GBTA Foundation in partnership with Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) and the Carlson Family Foundation. However, of the travel programs that have not adopted one, almost two-thirds (64 percent) will do so in the next two years, according to the travel professionals surveyed.

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More than half of travel professionals have endorsed a mobile app in the past year, but a strategy means thinking bigger than just apps. It means looking more broadly into how to take the pieces of your travel program and bring them into the mobile environment to drive engagement, compliance and savings.

The study, A Mobile Effect: Setting A Clear Mobile Travel Strategy, consisted of both a short online survey of travel professionals in the United States and in-depth interviews with travel professionals across the United States and Europe. The consensus showed a clear, precise strategy is mostly missing from travel programs, opening the door to challenges as more apps and new technology increasingly make their way into the market.

“Travel programs haven’t really looked at the mobile space as a strategy, more of which app is available or that the program could endorse,” said Dominique Betancourt, data insight manager for Carlson Wagonlit Travel. “A strategy is critical because the mobile space changes at lightning speed, and it’s critical to think of it in strategic pieces like apps, how to communicate, what is acceptable behavior for your organization like checking in to places. Focusing on first how a program would like to leverage mobile and then looking at what could help execute that strategy, will ensure a travel program is set up for success.”

Travel professionals see a number of opportunities when implementing a mobile strategy – most commonly, increased traveler engagement (78 percent) and increased compliance (55 percent). They also cite top challenges as IT security (41 percent), travelers owning their own devices (32 percent) and too many decision makers (21 percent). While they recognize the challenges they face when travelers embrace channels they see as more convenient and book outside of the program, travel professionals also appreciate what they have gained with mobility and understand that traveler preference has shifted to a self-service approach. CWT pic2

The focus of a mobile travel program strategy should be centered on how to make a traveler’s experience so simple in program that there is more value there than outside the program. Looking at the opportunities for savings is a good area that travel professionals can leverage to obtain buy-in and support from leadership to launch a mobile strategy.

Savings objectives from implementing a mobile strategy fall across multiple categories. There could be distribution savings when measuring the distribution costs of booking through mobile versus the corporate online booking tool, program savings to increase compliance such as alerts for best rates and when to book, and also productivity savings when travelers have access to functionalities that save them time and can increase their overall travel experience.

The study identifies best practices for where to start with a mobile travel strategy and next steps enabling travel professionals to better serve their travelers and the management of their programs.

Where to Start?

  • Determine what you would like to accomplish if you had an overall mobile travel strategy
  • Identify which tools or processes are already in use
  • Identify who owns the mobile policy and which departments are involved in decision making
  • Review mobile policy to know what is allowed and know what the limitations are

Next Steps:

  • Begin by conferring with departments in your organization that own/are involved in the mobile policy decision and execution
  • Create a suite of recommended apps
  • Include clear guidance in your travel policy of mobile app use for travel purposes
  • Have a means to provide fairly instant 2-way communication with your travelers
  • Measure traveler experience and savings
  • Stay current

For more details on how to accomplish this and create a mobile strategy that works for your travel program, download the full study here. Most organizations already have the technology in place and the willingness from travelers to embrace it. The missing piece is developing a strategy that takes into account the organization’s culture and the traveler’s needs, as well as the organization’s goals. Measuring the success and keeping communication open with travelers and decision makers alike will help travel professionals move forward with their mobile strategy in today’s digital world.

Experts from CWT and the GBTA Foundation will discuss the study’s findings in greater detail on September 8 at 2pm ET. Register today.

Using Social Media During Business Travel: How Much Sharing is Going On?

In just a few short years, social media has gone from the domain of a few techies and college students to one of the main avenues that people use to communicate with one another. Indeed for some, it has become a truism that, “if it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen.” Given social media’s prevalence today, it would stand to reason that business travelers would share updates from their experiences on the road. A new survey, The Digital Business Traveler: A Survey of Business Travelers in North America, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Nordic Countries, sponsored by Sabre, however, found that business travelers are not using social media as much as the general population.

Despite the prevalence of social media, business travelers do not frequently use it to share experiences while traveling. In each country surveyed, only about one-third of travelers or fewer “often” or “always” use it to share experiences. Another one-fifth to one-third in each country “sometimes” use it to share experiences.

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The travelers who at least sometimes share their experiences were asked what experiences they share via social platforms. The vast majority gave non-work-related answers—such as reviews of airlines or hotels or pictures of local attractions. However these figures mask significant age differences. In every country surveyed, Millennials are most likely to “often” or “always” share experiences on social media during business trips. In the United States, for example, 57 percent of Millennials share experiences from their business travel experiences on social media while only 31 percent of Gen Xers and 16 percent of Baby Boomers do so.

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While social media does currently not play an important role in business travel overall, as the number of Baby Boomers retire and leave the workforce and the number of Millennials rises as they continue to enter the workforce, social media is likely to become a much more prevalent component of the business travel experience.  

Will the Italian Business Travel Market Take a Roman Holiday?

Of the five European countries included in the most recent GBTA Foundation Western Europe BTI Report – the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Italy – Italy is the most perplexing. While it, like the other nations, will experience slow and steady growth for 2016 and 2017, it won’t grow at the same rate as neighboring Spain, France or Germany. Italy is, however, one of the catalysts for ensuring that Europe’s recent economic recovery has come to the Continent’s southern nations and has not just been confined to the larger, northern ones.

Italy, along with the other nation’s that were examined for the Western Europe BTI Report, make up 70 percent of Western Europe’s business travel market, and serve as a strong indicator for the European business travel market more broadly. Taken together, the business travel trends of these five countries demonstrate that Western Europe’s business travel confidence and demand is growing due to a number of positive factors that are projected to continue into next year.

Like its neighboring European economies, Italy is expected to see growth in business travel spending in 2016 and 2017, though it will not experience the same higher rates as other Euro countries. It will, however, see growth rates of 3.6 percent and 3.5 percent in 2016 and 2017, respectively for its business travel market. Italy BTI 2016 H1

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and FocusEconomics, Italy’s economy is projected to experience a 1.0 percent to 1.4 percent increase in its GDP in 2016 and 2017, which while low comparative to the growth rates of Italy’s northern neighbors, it is at least steady and consistent – with more robust growth anticipated on the horizon.

As Italy’s labor market improves and the government budget deficit continues to decline amid increasing tax revenue and declining interest payments on that debt, Italy’s business travel spending is expected to continue to rise, albeit at modest levels. However, Italy’s public debt as a percentage of GDP is the fifth largest in the world and second largest in the Euro zone, 132.6 percent against GDP in 2015. This sizable debt has a huge impact on the business travel market and will likely hinder investment prospects in the near-term.

Despite Italy’s significant debt, inflation continues to remain at historic lows, which should suppress travel-related goods and service prices in the next couple of years and therefore consumers and corporations should experience cost savings that will help drive Italy’s business travel in 2016 and 2017.

While Italy’s overall business travel market has seen modest growth recently, its domestic business travel market – which accounts for 90 percent of Italy’s total business travel market – saw a decline in 2013 before rebounding in 2014. Since then, Italy has experienced slow and steady growth in its domestic business travel market and is expected to do so again in 2016 and 2017 at rates of 3.0 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

Domestic business travel will benefit from low oil prices and an improving labor market, yet weaker global demand, political instability and high unemployment rates of 11 percent will likely suppress Italy’s growth prospects. It will not, however, suppress growth enough for Italy to experience a decline either in economic or business travel-related activity. Given Italy’s mixed-bag of positive and negative economic data, slow and steady growth is probably the best to be expected.

GBTA LATAM Continues to Grow

During Convention 2016, Kevin Maguire, GBTA Regional Vice President for the LATAM region, joined us at the GBTA Broadcast Studio to talk about the year ahead for GBTA in Latin America. Building on initial locations in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, GBTA has now expanded into Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay and Chile with plans to include the Caribbean market and more countries in both Central and South America next year.

The next month will be very busy for the LATAM region with the Energy, Resources & Marine Travel Symposium coming up in Rio, followed closely by the GBTA Travel Symposium in Bogota, an Education Day in Mexico and GBTA Conference in Buenos Aires. View the full calendar of upcoming events here.

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

Message from the Office of the GBTA President - Honoring Outstanding Members

*The following blog post was originally sent as an email to GBTA Members on Friday, August  19.*

Earlier this week I sent you a note about all the happenings at GBTA Convention 2016 and what is in store for the year ahead. It is an exciting time for GBTA and given that members are the heart of this Association, I wanted to write a special note recognizing some of our most outstanding members.

During Convention, GBTA launched the hashtag, #GBTAProps, as a way to recognize outstanding members throughout the industry. We hope you join us all year long on Twitter and Facebook by using #GBTAProps to call out an individual in the business travel industry you know who has gone above and beyond and deserves recognition.

Since not everyone was able to attend Convention, I would like to take a moment to once again recognize and congratulate several honorees.

Steve Singh was the recipient of the prestigious GBTA ICON Award. This honor has only been given to seven other recipients. GBTA icons are those individuals who display particular vision and innovation, not only in their professional lives but also in their service for the organization and the GBTA Foundation.


Jim Wilkins is this year’s recipient of the GBTA Direct Member of the Year Award. This award recognizes a buyer member who demonstrates unwavering dedication and considerable success in advancing both GBTA and the travel management profession. Wilkins is an accomplished veteran in the travel industry. He was a chapter President and served on the GBTA Bylaw Coalition, where he was instrumental in refining and strengthening the organization’s governing rules and principles. His work in creating the new Indirect Member category will benefit GBTA for years to come. He currently serves on our GBTA Foundation Board of Trustees.

Jim Wilkins

Bob Somers is this year’s recipient of the GBTA Allied Member of the Year Award. This award recognizes a supplier member whose dedication, enthusiasm, and hard work have generated significant benefits for our Association and for the business travel industry. He recently served on the Foundation’s Industry Advisory Council, which acts as the Foundation’s “think tank” to identify new ideas and projects for the betterment of our industry. He was instrumental in shaping high-impact research topics and key education sessions. He is widely known as a thought leader in the industry, one who is committed to driving positive change.


Each of these honorees are true leaders in the business travel industry. They have the ability not only to think boldly and creatively about new approaches, but also to implement their vision in a meaningful and impactful manner.

I also wanted to more formally recognize and offer my congratulations to the 18 GBTA members who received the prestigious Business Travel Professional Service Award. The Business Travel Professional Service Award honors a select group of experienced travel professionals who have distinguished themselves as industry leaders. These professionals have made significant contributions to GBTA through their region or chapter. They stand out at their jobs, and they are widely recognized leaders and contributors within the industry. This award, now in its 25th year, has been extended to include regions from around the world.


Congratulations to the following honorees:

United States Recipients:
Samantha Bean, LTD Hospitality; Mary Kathleen Cole, Travel One Inc.; Valentina Hanson, Prologis; Claire Langford, Asurion; Ellen Meyer, Marathon Oil Company; Heather Pastrick, Enterprise Holdings, Inc.; DJ Prohaska, Enterprise Holdings, Inc.; Gregory Sweeney, Egencia Corporate Travel; Cyndy Thompson, Academy Sports + Outdoors; Wallis Williams, CDM Smith

Canada Recipients:

Ian Race, Vision Travel Solutions; Shelly Lewchuk, Canadian Natural Resources Limited

Latin America Recipients:

Roman Hernandez, BBVA Bancomer; Javier Rosas Best, Travel Management Consulting

Europe Recipients:

Ronan Morice, Societe Generale Group; Cathrine Lundberg, CMM Consulting

China Recipients:

Hamish Wang, Apple; Becky Cao, Marriott International Inc.

In addition, the GBTA Foundation awarded 21 recipients with the prestigious GLP Designation during Convention. The Global Leadership Professional® designation (GLP) was created to acknowledge business travel professionals who had completed the GLP Program, received their Certificate of Professional Development, and then applied that knowledge to help further the industry through a related group project. The GLP program provides essential business knowledge in the major business disciplines of leadership, finance, marketing and management.

Congratulations to the following recipients: Teresa Amos, Hilton Worldwide; Claire Blades, Veritas Technologies LLC; Deb Cruz, BCD Travel; Joseph D’Abate, Lockheed Martin Corporation; Isabelle Donovan, The Boeing Company; Trish Earles, Halliburton; Gail Frazer, Marriott International, Inc.;  Daniele Gadbois, Carlson Wagonlit Travel; Daniel Garuti, Loomis, Sayles & Company L.P.; Jolee Goularte, Flextronics International; Deborah Graves, Carlson Wagonlit Travel; Karyn Hoye, GP Strategies Corporation; Kim Kearns, BCD Travel; Deborah McKay; Joanne McNellis Coelho, Wyndham Worldwide; Catherine Moulton, Robert W. Baird & Co.; Connie Smith, McCain Foods Limited; Mark Stansbury, Lockheed Martin Corporation; Nick Verdea, The Williams Companies, Inc.; Greg Woods, Peabody Energy; and Lisa Young, Yum! Brands, Inc.

I continue to be proud and inspired to be surrounded by so many business travel over-achievers!  Thank you for your ongoing dedication and commitment.

GBTA Ladders Cultivates Careers

GBTA Ladders is a different kind of mentor program designed to bring together the best and the brightest in the travel industry to allow them to grow and cultivate their careers.

Hear from Ladders participants Hank Benedetti of American Airlines and Will Pinnell of BCD Travel about what the program means to them, what topics are covered and how it helps spread knowledge across all verticals of the travel industry.

GBTA Ladders places members into carefully crafted teams from a cross-section of the industry led by a highly-esteemed member of the corporate travel community who serves as the team mentor. The teams are then given an assignment of building a compelling presentation around a current industry topic.

The newest round of GBTA Ladders is set to begin in September and those accepted into the program are being notified at the end of the month. This session’s topic will focus on the evolution of travel management and there will be several new additions to the program including adding peer mentors to each team. Stay tuned to the GBTA Blog for more information.