The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

Week in Review

On Tuesday, the UK parliament rejected the Brexit deal that PM Theresa May had reached with the European Union, NPR reports. As the March 29 deadline quickly approaches, it’s possible that the UK will leave the EU with no deal in place. The UK could also unilaterally reverse its decision to leave, as ruled by the bloc’s highest court.

Car rental giant Enterprise is set to acquire corporate travel provider Deem, Skift notes. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019.

Also in acquisition news, TechCrunch reports American Express acquired Japan-based restaurant booking service Pocket Concierge in an undisclosed deal.

According to The Seattle Times, divers have recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the Lion Air jet that crashed in October. The aircraft crashed into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off, killing all 189 people on board.

After the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada, China is asking some of its state-run enterprises to avoid business trips to the U.S. and its allies, Bloomberg notes. The country is also asking them to take extra precautions to protect their devices if travel is necessary.

On the branding front, Travel Weekly reports Marriott is relaunching its loyalty program as Marriott Bonvoy, encompassing its Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards platforms.

Aer Lingus also unveiled a rebrand of their logo and livery this week, Buying Business Travel writes. The airline is set to take delivery of four A321LRs this year, which will allow them to introduce a new business class product.

According to Skift, event organizers are planning for stretched budgets this year. A poll of 1,200 event creators revealed that half expect their budget for 2019 to remain the same as the previous year; however, 49% also said they expect to be responsible for more events than last year.

All Nippon Airways is trialing driverless buses in a restricted area at Tokyo Haneda Airport, Business Traveller notes. The airline will run tests until January 25, and if the trial is successful, it could lead to the implementation of driverless buses at the airport by 2020.

The future of travel could also hold flying taxi services. According to Skift, Switzerland’s national rail service is in talks to develop air taxis that would transport customers from rail stations to destinations.

Week in Review

Adding to a growing list of industry breaches, Delta revealed a data breach that may have exposed credit card information for hundreds of thousands of customers. According to The Verge, an online support company that powers the airline’s chat platform suffered a malware attack last fall, but failed to inform Delta until mid-March 2018.

According to Phocuswright, Google’s internal incubator lab is developing a corporate travel product that will create instant travel budgets and incentivize employees.

Chicago’s city council has approved a plan to invest $8.5 billion in O’Hare International Airport, Business Traveller notes. In addition to receiving upgrades in security screening, baggage handling and check-in technology, the airport's Terminal 2 will be demolished and replaced with a new international terminal.

Following in Qantas’ footsteps, Air New Zealand is introducing its own ultra-long-haul flight. Starting in November, the non-stop 16-hour flight will fly from Chicago O’Hare to Auckland, USA TODAY reports.

On the latest episode of The Business of Travel, we discuss cost savings strategies in managed travel programs from the basics on up. Two industry veterans share their experiences, perspectives and best practices when it comes to saving your travel program money.

A three-week air traffic control upgrade could delay London flights in the coming weeks, Buying Business Travel notes.

In acquisition news, Skift reports Red Lion Hotels is buying Knights Inn from Wyndham for $27 million.

The same source states AccorHotels plans to buy a 50 percent stake in Mantis Group, a South African hotel chain. The deal would add 28 properties to the group’s portfolio.

Continuing on this trend, Conference & Incentive Travel shares Business Travel Direct has completed its acquisition of Uniglobe Preferred Travel.

In 2017, over 40 million people were exploited in some form of human trafficking, an industry that brings in $150 billion in illegal profits worldwide. Traveler awareness has the potential to create a meaningful impact to end child prostitution and trafficking, and here’s how to recognize the signs of human trafficking.

According to The Register, the U.S. State Department wants all visa applicants to provide information about the social media accounts they’ve used in the past five years. The plan is yet to be approved.

Radisson Hotel Group is getting a makeover with a new, refreshed brand in the U.S., Travel Weekly reports. The project may result in the removal of 10 to 15 percent of non-compliant hotels.

French rail workers staged a mass strike from Monday evening to Wednesday morning, Skift notes. The strike halted 85 percent of the country’s high-speed trains and three-quarters of regional trains.

Week in Review

After a brief hiatus, the Week in Review is back! This week started off with a massive power outage at Atlanta’s international airport on Sunday leading to over 1,150 canceled flights and the issuance of a ground stop by the FAA, USA TODAY reports.

On Monday, an Amtrak train in Washington derailed off a bridge resulting in multiple fatalities, according to NBC News. The train was traveling at 80 MPH in a 30-MPH zone and was not using positive train control, a technology that can prevent derailments caused by excessive speed. 

Skift reports that President Trump called for infrastructure improvements following the Amtrak accident. In the past, he has stated he will introduce a $1 trillion proposal to update airports, roads, and other public infrastructure.  

In other ground transportation news, The State Journal-Register notes Illinois’ $1.95 billion high-speed rail project is in its final phase after seven years of construction.

The business travel community continues to embrace the sharing economy, with 51% of companies allowing the use of ride-hailing apps in their travel policies. GBTA released a series of infographics this week that highlight app-based, ride-hailing usage in corporate travel, ground transportation quick facts and travel manager concern for various ground transportation options.

According to Commercial Property Executive, Choice Hotels will acquire WoodSpring Suites in a $231 million deal, adding 240 extended-stay hotels to its portfolio.

Also in acquisition news, TravelDailyNews International reports NOVUM Hospitality acquired one of Frankfurt’s largest conference hotels which boasts 396 rooms and 14 event spaces.

Digital Trends shares news of a growing email scam that cost Japan Airlines nearly $3.39 million USD. An airline employee was tricked into making payments to bank accounts created by fraudsters.

Travelers can now send messages to hotels directly from their Google search results, according to Hotel News Resource. Hoteliers may activate this feature by signing into their Google My Business page and navigating to the chat tile.

On Wednesday, Congress passed a controversial tax bill, which many travel companies are enthusiastically backing, Skift reports.

After the UK officially leaves the EU in 2019, British passports will return to their blue and gold design, Business Traveller notes.

Traveling this holiday season? TravelDailyNews International reveals the most stressful US airports based on flight cancellations.

From the shocking news of Brexit to multiple travel and electronics bans, Skift looks back on how corporate travel became much more complicated in 2017.


Your list for this week comes from Skift:

25 Travel Moments that Mattered in 2017

Week in Review

Mexico City International Airport suspended operation for several hours on Tuesday due to a 7.1-magnitude earthquake, reports Business Insider.

According to CBS Chicago, airlines began resuming flights to Puerto Rico on Friday, following Hurricane Maria’s devastation of the island.

Travel Leaders Corporate shares news of Travel Leaders Group’s acquisition of Raleigh-based TMC Travel Management Partners.

TechCrunch reports that Uber has lost its license to operate in London.

According to Bloomberg, Boeing has landed an $11 billion deal from Turkish Air, signaling the carrier’s rebound following last year’s terrorist attack in Istanbul.

TravelDailyNews International reports passengers will face new delays and cancellations during a new ATC strike in France.

According to USA TODAY, airlines charged $7.1 billion in baggage and changed reservation fees in 2016.

Mashable reports that Airbnb has added in-app restaurant reservations to its platform on its quest to take over travel. GBTA announced a partnership with Meeting Professionals International (MPI) to deliver meeting and event focused education at GBTA Conference 2017 Frankfurt in Partnership with VDR.

According to Skift, travel agents are increasingly using global distribution systems to book hotels.

4Hoteliers notes that the total value of hospitality projects in the UAE reached over $71 billion in September 2017.

According to Business Traveller, the FAA is using outdated information on aircraft evacuations.

Buying Business Travel reports that London has been named the most popular business travel destination.

According to Business Traveller, Heathrow Airport urges the government to scrap the Air Passenger Duty (APD) on all domestic UK flights. Newly-released research reveals that UK air passengers pay at least an extra £225 million a year in taxes on domestic flights than their European counterparts.

Air Transport World notes that Virgin Australia has begun testing a pop-up, mobile luggage check-in system. The service enables passengers to check in and drop off baggage in a remote location away from the airport.

Business Traveller reports that Qatar Airways rolled out a global chauffeur airport transfer service.

According to USA TODAY, fliers may soon board more international flights with a picture rather than a passport, thanks to biometric technology implemented by Customs and Border Protection.

Business Traveller reports that the Civil Administration of China is relaxing its restrictions on mobile device usage on flights, allowing individual airlines to determine their policies.

Skift notes that European regulators are investigating Lufthansa’s controversial travel agent surcharge.

According to USA TODAY, Frontier Airlines has been fined $1.5 million for subjecting passengers to long tarmac delays in Denver last December.

Week in Review

Mergers and acquisitions are all the rage this week! Reuters reports Alaska Air completed its acquisition of Virgin America in a $2.6 billion deal. According to Buying Business Travel, Lufthansa Group completed its acquisition of Brussels Airlines, purchasing the remaining 55 percent of shares for €2.6 million. Financial Times reports car rental company Europcar announced plans to acquire its Irish franchisee Europcar Ireland. The company also plans to spend up to €500 million on future acquisitions.

According to Skift, Iran Air closed a $16.6 billion deal with Boeing for 80 planes, in the biggest agreement Iran has struck with an American company since the 1979 revolution and U.S. embassy takeover.

Last week, USA TODAY reported the DOT put forth a proposal that would allow airlines to allow voice calls during flights, as long as they notified passengers beforehand. GBTA believes the DOT should permanently ban cell phone calls on planes, due to the security threat presented, as well as the potential for disruption and a loss of productivity.

According to The Washington Post, the DOT has concluded that airlines did not price gouge passengers following the Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia last year. Since the wreck delayed rail travel for days, allegations had surfaced that the cost of airline tickets in the Northeast region shot up during that time.

Buying Business Travel reports low-cost carrier Air Seoul signed a multi-year deal with Sabre, making its content available to travel agents via a GDS for the first time.

A new study from the GBTA Foundation, in partnership with Concur, finds direct bookings are becoming increasingly popular, with nearly 40% of managed frequent business travelers regularly booking directly. The study explores priorities and challenges corporate travel programs face and identifies how travel professionals attempt to balance traveler experience and employee compliance. Another GBTA Foundation study, in partnership with AccorHotels, reveals best practices for successful relationships between hoteliers and travel buyers, as well as common barriers to success.

According to The Times of Israel, startup 30SecondstoFly has developed an AI-powered travel assistant called Claire that is capable of learning company travel policies and employee preferences. Using that information, Claire is able to optimize smart itineraries and book and track business trips for SMBs.

TravelDailyNews reports Munich Airport plans to become Germany’s first carbon-neutral airport. They recently adopted a resolution that states they will reduce CO2 emissions directly attributable to the airport’s operations by 60 percent by 2030.

According to HotelMarketing, travel ads in Ontario, Canada will soon have to include all taxes and fees. The new rules, effective January 1, are designed to protect consumers and create a level playing field for the industry.

AviationPros notes Mumbai’s international airport has installed self-bag drop units, making it the first airport in India to do so.

Buying Business Travel reports beTravelwise has developed a safety program for LGBT travelers to help mitigate certain risks.

Week in Review

According to the Chicago Tribune, a new study suggests the TSA would save $34 million a year by making PreCheck free for frequent fliers. In addition to saving millions, the agency could create shorter lines and enhance security at many of the nation’s airports.

Earlier this year, the GBTA Aviation Committee unveiled a new, revamped Airline Request for Proposal (RFP). Designed to become the new industry standard for travel professionals, the new airline RFP toolkit is now available free of charge to all in the industry.

Ctrip has officially completed its previously announced acquisition of SkyScanner in an estimated $1.74 billion deal, according to TechCrunch.

According to Buying Business Travel, Cabfind announced a partnership with travel management company CTI. The partnership will allow the ground transport company to expand its service.

Buying Business Travel shares new research from Carlson Wagonlit Travel that suggests businesses could reduce travel spend by up to 15 percent by changing traveler behavior and enforcing existing travel policies.

According to MarketWatch, IATA estimates airline profits will reach record heights before 2017. The association says airlines are expected to deliver a combined record net profit of $35.6 billion this year, an increase from $35.3 billion last year.

IATA has also stated global air passenger traffic demand rose 5.8 percent in October compared to the same period last year, according to Manila Bulletin.

TravelDailyNews reports Scope 5 and Concur have partnered to help customers track the emissions impact of business travel. The Scope 5 integration is now available through the Concur App Center.

According to Buying Business Travel, UK airports are in favor of revamped aviation policies to boost regional growth. A chief executive from Manchester Airports Group has called on the government to develop a new policy following the approval of a third runway at Heathrow.

TravelDailyNews shares findings from a new study by Expedia and Luth Research revealing 43% of business trips are extended for leisure purposes.

Travel Weekly reports Expedia is expected to become the world’s first $100 billion travel agency. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says the company has a goal to achieve this landmark within the next few years.

According to Tech Wire Asia, a high speed rail agreement between Malaysia and Singapore will be signed by the end of the year. A high speed rail trip between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is expected to take around 90 minutes.

Business Traveller reports Marriott International is set to open 28 luxury hotels in 2017. The properties will be added across six of its current brands.

This week’s list comes from Condé Nast Traveler: 6 Holiday Travel Tips to Make Your Trip Less Stressful

Week in Review

Typhoon Meranti caused flight disruptions for China Airlines and Mandarin Airlines this week as it approached Taiwan, reports Business Traveller. According to Al Jazeera, Meranti hit southeastern China and is the third most violent typhoon on record and the strongest storm of the year globally.

The TSA is boasting reduced airport wait times, with nearly 92% of fliers waiting 15 minutes or less for screenings between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The quicker lines can be thanked in part to the 3.5 million PreCheck enrollees, as well as the employment of new TSA officers and improved technology at checkpoints. According to USA TODAY, the seven busiest airports in the U.S. had average screening wait times of less than 10 minutes. Air Transport World reports Southwest CEO Gary Kelly has also weighed in on the issue, claiming the TSA has made “remarkable progress” on checkpoint waits.

According to Skift, Red Lion Hotels Corporation (RLHC) is buying Vantage Hospitality Group in a $27.8 million deal. Washington-based RLHC is buying into 1,000 hotel properties including brands like Signature Inn, America’s Best Value Inn and Value Inn Worldwide. Concur has also announced its acquisition of hotel-metasearch website Hipmunk. Skift shares the acquisition is a result of Concur’s efforts to bring consumer tools to its business travelers.

Marriott has finalized the contracts of seven new hotels in China, their largest market outside of the U.S. Business Traveller shares opening dates have not yet been announced, but the signings are expected to add over 1,400 new rooms. Starwood has also announced the introduction of two new hotels to Singapore. Travel Daily Media states one of the hotels was originally constructed in the early 19th Century.

Garuda Indonesia is expected to resume flights to the U.S. following a recent change in the airline’s safety status. Buying Business Travel notes the airline now complies with safety standards recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The same source reports Ryanair is increasing its capacity at Manchester Airport by 13% through the addition of five new routes from the city.

Skift reports Southwest Airlines will be offering its elite frequent flyers free same-day standby, an amenity that customers were originally charged for. Meanwhile, Emirates is taking a different route and will begin imposing extra fees for seat selection on 3 October. Business Traveller reminisces on a time when airlines provided advanced seat selection free of charge.

Atlanta has been named the world’s busiest passenger airport for yet another year. CNN reports over 101 million passengers passed through the airport in 2015. In other airport news, Malaysia is planning to spend $1 billion over the next five years to improve its congested airports following a surge in passenger traffic. According to Bloomberg, Boeing Co. projects the region will see 100 million new passengers annually. The same source shares Boeing Co. expects aircraft demand in China to soar over the next two decades, projecting demand for 6,810 aircraft valued at $1.025 trillion.

Certain businesses in the travel and hospitality industry have been using the fine print of their terms and conditions to bar customers from writing bad reviews. In response, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Consumer Review Fairness Act in a voice vote on Monday. Skift notes the bill would prohibit businesses from issuing contracts preventing customers from writing negative reviews and sharing displeasing photos.

Another week, another list from USA TODAY: 5 Ways to Help You Avoid Travel Fatigue

Accor Hotels COO Talks M&A with GBTA

Days before the start of GBTA Convention 2016 AccorHotels completed their acquisition of FRHI Hotels & Resorts, making newly apointed AccorHotels COO Kevin Frid a great person to talk to about one of the industry’s hottest topics – mergers and acquisitions.

During a time of unprecedented consolidation in the travel industry, GBTA Executive Director and COO Mike McCormick sat down with Kevin at the GBTA Broadcast Studio to discuss what this means for the industry as a whole and for the travel buyer in particular.

“We don’t determine prices, markets do,” Frid said when talking about the idea that consolidation drives prices upward.

View the full interview here:

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

Consolidation in Business Travel: What’s Next?

For the past several years, there has been a significant number of consolidations throughout every segment of the travel industry. With mergers and acquisitions of some of the best-known brands in the air travel, lodging and ground transport sectors continuing at a rapid pace, GBTA Convention 2016 featured a Center Stage panel discussion on the topic of consolidation with some of the most well-known experts in the field.

Moderated by Guy Langford, Vice Chairman, U.S. Leader of the Travel, Hospitality & Leisure (“THL”), Deloitte & Touche LLP, the panel consisted of Reggie Aggarwal, CEO and Founder, Cvent; Dara Khosrowshahi President and CEO, Expedia, Inc., and; Kevin Frid, COO of Accor Hotels. The panel brought unique perspectives to an extremely timely and relevant discussion. Cvent is currently being acquired, Expedia has become one of the largest travel companies in the world through acquisitions, and Accor Hotels recently completed an acquisition. Given these backgrounds across travel industries, the conversation provided much needed clarity and insight into one of the biggest drivers shaping today’s travel industry.

There was agreement that having an effective strategy in place must drive the process of successful mergers or acquisitions. If the consolidation is not strategic, it may be unsuccessful. Said Accor’s Kevin Frid, “strategy, when done well, doesn’t change much, but may be tweaked. Economic conditions are always changing.”

Merger Frida

Expedia’s President and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi highlighted the unique borrowing landscape that currently exists – stating that, “at this time, central banks lowering the cost of borrowing to such an extent that now a bird in hand is worth a bird in the bush and people are diving into the bush to collect birds.”

Merger Dara

From the perspective of a company that is being acquired, Cvent’s Reggie Aggarwal said that, “if you’re the acquiring company, strategy is the most important thing, but if you’re being acquired, the driving factor is price.”

Merger Reggie

The conversation shifted to the hot-button topics of scalability, technology and if it is still possible to “own the customer.” With respect to scalability, Accor’s Frid sees scalability as intrinsically linked to strategy. Saying of the recent merger, “we wanted a bigger footprint in the luxury space and in the U.S. markets, but the reality is that brands can’t scale to determine a price. Brands can only provide a value proposition for its customers.”

While the three panelists had unique perspectives of the current landscape of consolidation, they were in agreement that it is no longer possible to, “own the customer” as today’s young, savvy traveler is resistant to such notions. It is possible, according to Khosrowshahi and Aggarawl, to rely on technology to interact with the customer and alleviate any pain points.

The panel agreed such uses of technology will continue to drive mergers and acquisitions in the travel industry for the foreseeable future. Said Aggarawl, “There is so much cool tech coming out of the travel industry now, and many travel companies now see themselves as tech companies.”

With a healthy and robust reliance on technology, as well as the continued environment of low borrowing and easy access to capital, consolidation will continue to be one of – if not the – biggest drivers shaping the business travel landscape for years to come.