The Business of Travel

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The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association


GBTA Encourages the EU to Digitalize its Visa Process

Last month, the European Commission invited GBTA to share our views on the risks and opportunities involved with digitalizing EU visas. This is part of the EU’s effort to modernize its visa policy and overcome challenges for both public authorities and travelers.

GBTA welcomed this opportunity to provide input into the European Commission’s work and strongly supports the initiative. The EU should leverage new digital technologies to facilitate travel to the Schengen area – while upholding the highest safety standards.

Digitalizing the EU visa process can reduce what is currently a long visa application processing time by enabling business travelers to file their applications online and avoid having to make a personal appearance at consular services. A digital process would allow applicants to upload the required documents electronically, including their passport and picture. The e-visa would then be issued in an electronic form and sent by email to applicants creating a much more streamlined approach.

Many countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have already successfully digitalized their visa application processes. GBTA suggests that the European Commission set-up an exchange of “best practices” with those countries to facilitate the implementation of EU-wide e-visas.

To ensure a smooth transition, GBTA highlighted that the EU should address the digital divide in Europe and ensure that a harmonized digital procedure is implemented across all EU Member States. It will be critical to protect data integrity and privacy and ensure that public authorities safeguard their systems against data breaches and cyberattacks.

GBTA remains convinced that the benefits of digitalizing visas outweigh the potential concerns – and calls on the European Commission to support Member States when rolling-out new digital capabilities.

GBTA is committed to working hand-in-hand with the European Commission to ensure that the digitalization of visas and visa processing becomes a reality, and making sure that the EU’s visa policy takes into account business travelers’ interests.


Revision of EU Air Services Rules: Business Travelers Highlight Key Issues of Concern

GBTA Urges EU Institutions to Effectively Deal with Price Transparency in Aviation

GBTA welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the on-going policy debate on the EU aviation market, launched by the European Commission in the context of its evaluation of European rules governing competition in the internal aviation market.

On 7 June, GBTA submitted its answers to the public consultation launched by the European Commission in this context, and highlighted key issues to be addressed, in particular the need for fair and transparent ticket price policies to be implemented for the benefit of business travelers and the companies they work for.

GBTA stressed that several disruptive practices by airlines, such as unilateral decisions to impose surcharges on bookings made through Global Distribution Systems (GDSs), the increased use of loyalty programmes to outreach directly to travelers and price discrimination on the basis of a traveler’s residence, result in costs increases for business travelers and disruptions in corporate travel management.

Given its contribution to the European Commission’s public consultation, GBTA looks forward to the results of this consultation, and is ready to continue to cooperate with the European Commission on evaluating the benefits and challenges to address in the aviation market in order to ensure that business travelers’ specific concerns are taken into account in any future revision of EU rules.


Brexit: Business Travelers Concerned by Threatening “No Deal” Prospect

The Clock is Ticking: GBTA Reiterates Call to EU and UK Brexit Negotiators to Agree on Withdrawal Issues and Quickly Start Discussing Future Relationship & Aviation

A few months ago, GBTA commented positively on progress achieved at the March 2018 meeting, where a way forward was finally found on Withdrawal issues, namely Citizens’ rights, the Northern Ireland border and the financial settlement. GBTA also positively welcomed the agreement found on the length of transition period, which provided some reassurance to businesses and their business travelers.

However, looking at the way negotiations have unfolded since then, GBTA’s hope that decision makers will make good progress and start negotiating the EU-UK future trade deal is fading. Despite what was announced this March, and as demonstrated by the Joint EU-UK Statement assessing the progress of negotiations published on 19 June, only minor achievements have been made and Northern Ireland continues to be a sticking point, preventing the EU and UK negotiators from moving forward on trade and aviation issues.

This has created a highly uncertain situation for business travel, and uncertainty is never good for business. Therefore, in advance of the 28-29 June EU Summit, the business travel industry calls upon European institutions to carefully consider the implications of this uncertainty for businesses and commit to rapidly opening up negotiations on the future EU-UK trade deal as well as on the future EU-UK future aviation deal.

A seamless transition towards a sound aviation deal is crucial for the economy, businesses and the business travel industry. Prospects of Brexit for aviation are alarming: obstacles for UK airlines to operate in the EU and with the rest of the world, reduced connectivity and travel choices as well as risks to travel safety and security if the UK leaves the European Agency for Aviation Safety. The practical effect of a failure to reach an agreement would be the immediate suspension of flights between the UK and the European Union.   

The EU and UK economies cannot afford a no deal. Neither can businesses nor business travelers. This is why GBTA remains committed to being involved every step of the way to advocate for the best interests of our industry.

 


Podcast: What Does GDPR Even Mean Anyways?

For this week’s episode, The Business of Travel, talks all things GDPR. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to go into effect this Friday, May 25, 2018. First up, Ed Barrett, GBTA’s chief marketing officer, talks about what GDPR is, how it impacts organizations and details GBTA’s steps toward GDPR compliance.

Next on the podcast, Hannah Jaffee, GBTA research analyst, shares data from a joint research project with Cvent designed to gauge how professionals in the travel, meetings and events industries are feeling about GDPR and their companies’ readiness.  She also shares insight from the research on what travel professionals are currently doing around GDPR and best practices for compliance in a post-GDPR world.


 

You can download and listen to The Business of Travel in iTunesStitcherGoogle Play and your other favorite podcast directories. Be sure to subscribe to the show so you don't miss out!

Looking for more resources on GDPR? GBTA members can download these webinars for free when logged into our GBTA Hub:

GDPR: What Travel Professionals Outside Of The EU Should Know

GDPR: What It Is And What It Means For Your Travel Programme


There is also still time to register for today’s webinar presented by GBTA and Cvent:

Gearing Up for GDPR - Confidence, Concern, and Best Practices for Compliance
Wednesday, May 23 at 2pm ET


ETIAS: A Fair and Beneficial System for Business Travelers

On 25 April 2018, European policy makers concluded negotiations on a new legislation that will put in place a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), an equivalent to the well-known Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) introduced in the United States in 2008.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), representing 9,000-plus members that manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually, congratulates EU legislators for striking the right balance between enhancing security and avoiding unnecessary burdens on business travelers.

GBTA is pleased to see that its call for a fair and reasonable system for business travelers has been taken into account by EU legislators:

  • The ETIAS fee will not exceed €7 and the ETIAS authorization will be valid for three years. This will allow for the system to be financially self-sufficient while not deterring business travel to the EU.

  • Passengers simply transiting through a Schengen country will not have to request an ETIAS authorization.

  • The system will apply to all visa-exempt applicants – without exemptions – between the ages of 18 and 70.

The system will allow EU Member States to conduct pre-travel screening to assess security and migration risks before issuing a Schengen visa, therefore closing the information gap on travelers entering the Schengen area without a visa. This will undoubtedly help identify any possible security concerns, thus contributing to improved travel safety as well as improved EU internal security.

ETIAS will also ease border control processes and provide visa-exempt business travelers with a reliable and early indication of their admissibility into the Schengen area.

GBTA would therefore like to call upon EU decision-makers to swiftly finalize the last legal steps to avoid any delays in the implementation of the system.


Podcast: Brexit – What Happens on January 1, 2021?

On the latest episode of The Business of Travel, GBTA talks Brexit and its impact on business travel. First up, Russell Patten, CEO of Grayling Brussels and Chairman of Grayling European Public Affairs, shares his perspectives on how negotiations are going and his predictions on how Brexit will ultimately impact business travel. Next, European Parliament MEP Daniel Dalton shares his views on what is at stake for the aviation sector and what long-term success will look like after Brexit is finalized.

 

 

You can download and listen to The Business of Travel in iTunesStitcher, Google Play and your other favorite podcast directories. Be sure to subscribe to the show so you don't miss out!


GBTA Encourages A Smarter and Safer EU Visa Policy

At the end of 2017, the European Commission launched a process to review the EU’s visa policy and adapt it to today’s challenges. In this context, the European Commission published its proposal to review the EU Visa Code this month meant to modernize and streamline the common European visa rules.

GBTA believes in sound and smart visa policies and earlier this year, GBTA submitted its position to the European Commission providing recommendations on the revision of the EU’s visa policy. GBTA strongly believes that the EU should ambitiously work towards achieving efficient visa policies that facilitate travel while upholding safety concerns. Business travel is the world’s largest employer and drives the success of every other industry. In this context, smart and balanced visa policies are essential to enable vetted business travelers to access European markets, thereby contributing to economic development and job creation.

GBTA is very pleased to see that most of its recommendations were taken into account in the recent Visa Code legislative proposal.

We are pleased to see that the European Commission is suggesting streamlining complex procedural requirements to obtain a Schengen visa. We are also pleased to see that Multiple Entry Visas’ procedures will be harmonized across the EU, as this will avoid certain EU countries from being more restrictive than others in delivering this specific type of visa.

However, we are concerned about the European Commission’s proposed increase of the visa application fees from €60 to €80. We call upon EU institutions to ensure fees are proportionate and enable the system to be self-sufficient financially, to avoid imposing additional tax burden on business travelers.

In our position paper, we had also called for online applications and the delivery of digital visas to be introduced as soon as possible, to simplify and accelerate the process for business travelers, while at the same time relieving consulates from administrative burden. We welcome the European Commission’s willingness to start discussions with the European Parliament and EU countries on this issue and hope these discussions will be quickly turned into concrete legislative outcomes.

GBTA remains ready to work hand-in-hand with European policymakers during the legislative process to ensure that its proposal to modernize the EU’s Visa Policy continues to take business travelers interests into account.


Business Travelers Welcome “Sufficient Progress” Declaration

GBTA Urges EU and UK Brexit Negotiators to Quickly Start Discussing Future Relationship

More than a year has passed since Brexit negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom officially started, which gave both the EU and the UK until March of 2019 to decide on the conditions of the UK’s departure from the EU. Following numerous negotiation rounds between both governments, it seems that a way forward has finally been found on phase 1 issues, namely Citizens’ rights, the Northern Ireland border and the financial settlement.

With this “sufficient progress” achieved, the EU expressed its readiness last week to enter discussions on a transition agreement and “its desire to establish a close partnership between the Union and the United Kingdom”. This is good news welcomed by the business travel industry. But the devil is in the details and full clarity on the transition and the future EU-UK relationship, which are highly likely to impact how business travel operates between the EU and the UK, is yet to be found.

Uncertainty is never good for business. That is why following last week’s Council of the remaining 27 Member States, GBTA urges European institutions to officially start the discussions on transition and on the second phase of negotiations quickly in order to give more time, clarity and certainty for the travel industry to prepare and adapt to all these expected changes.

  • Air transport is one of the key issues to be addressed for the business travel industry. If the UK doesn’t remain in the common aviation area after it officially leaves the EU, there will be obstacles for UK airlines to operate in the EU and with the rest of the world. This could reduce connectivity, travel choices and therefore business travel opportunities. Depending on the UK’s membership to the European Agency for Aviation Safety (EASA), divergence in security or air traffic rules could also appear. Michael Huerta, head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration traveled to London and Brussels last week to talk with both sides on the importance of clarity on whether the UK can retain its role in EASA. Huerta said it is important to have this clarity early in the new year as it will be “absolutely critical” to understand how aviation safety will be governed in the UK.

  • As for travelers, they could face longer queues and delays if it the UK decides to introduce restrictive border checks or even specific working visas for citizens of certain EU countries to reduce influx of economic migrants. However, any visa regime between an EU Member State must be negotiated at the EU level, meaning that the UK cannot take a specific approach for one EU country – or it would face retaliation measures from the EU.

  • The financial upheaval and pending changes to trade and immigration rules would also raise many concerns in corporate management and travel offices – causing some postponement, and even outright cancellation, of business trips. It may also trigger travel budget constriction as management seeks to hedge the uncertainty.

To manage these uncertainties and potential changes to the way business travel will operate in the EU and in the UK, transitional arrangements will be needed to enable the industry to have enough time to adapt to new regulatory and economic environments.

The true impact of Brexit on the business travel sector will only be fully revealed as time passes. But GBTA will be involved every step of the way keeping you up to date on how this will impact our industry and advocating on your behalf for the best interests of our industry.


What’s In Store for Visa Reciprocity between the United States and Europe?

Recently, GBTA reported that the European Parliament called upon the European Commission to reintroduce a visa requirement for Americans traveling to Europe unless political issues over visa reciprocity between the regions are resolved. In its response to the European Parliament published last week, the European Commission argued that suspending visa reciprocity with the United States would be counterproductive to the objective of achieving visa-free travel for all EU citizens, given the significant progress and positive momentum already achieved through a diplomatic approach.

The European Commission reported that the United States reconfirmed its commitment to admit the five EU Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania) into the Visa Waiver Program provided each country can meet the necessary U.S. statutory requirements. GBTA welcomes this progress and looks forward to June 2017, when these five EU Member States, which are not yet part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, and the United States are expected to endorse a way forward on the issue.

In parallel, last Wednesday in the United States, the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee held a hearing regarding the Visa Waiver Program to examine Visa Security and paths of entry into the United States. This comes in the wake of recent comments from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly, during a speech at George Washington University, who stated that the DHS needs to take a “hard look” at the Visa Waiver Program. The Secretary is concerned that as ISIS continues to diminish, many of the fighters are returning to their countries of origin, most of which are European countries in the Visa Waiver Program. The Department of Homeland Security is currently reviewing for ways to strengthen VWP to mitigate the risk that former ISIS members would exploit the VWP and travel to the United States to carry out attacks.

This approach was echoed by Michael Dougherty, Acting Assistant Secretary of Border, Immigration, and Trade Policy Office of Policy for DHS, during the hearing, who said that the Department’s intention is to start discussions on identifying additional ways of making visa free travel to the United States more secure than it is now.

"The VWP is great for American businesses and it can actually help strengthen national security in some cases by improving information sharing between the United States and our allies,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) who chairs the Homeland Security Committee Task Force on Denying Terrorists Entry to the United States. “At the same time, we have to work very hard to ensure this program does not help violent extremists enter our country."

GBTA supports the Department’s goal to continue and strengthen visa free travel to and from the United States. Our hope is that their vision continues to be to enhance security through the expansion of the VWP. We look forward to working with the House Homeland Security Committee and DHS as they review enhancements to the Visa Waiver Program. This vital international program encourages cooperation in the fight against potential attacks by allowing intelligence and information sharing of potential terror threats among the participating countries. It spurs job creation and economic growth, while remaining the gold standard of security and efficiency in balancing the need to protect travelers while facilitating global business travel.

In parallel, GBTA continues to urge government officials on both sides of the Atlantic to work together and come to a resolution that does not put a halt to visa-free travel that currently exists. At a time when transatlantic cooperation and stepping up our common efforts in the fight against terrorism is more important than ever, the reintroduction of visa requirements could seriously damage the relationship between these two strategic partners.


GBTA EU Hotel Committee Explores Hotel Program Savings Calculation Methods

*The GBTA EU Hotel Committee contributed the following blog post.*

Do you know the most often-used methods for hotel program savings calculation in Europe? The GBTA Foundation conducted a survey in Europe to investigate how European travel buyers are calculating hotel savings. Based on the survey results, the GBTA EU Hotel Committee created a resource to share the most commonly used savings calculation methods and explain the pros and cons for each savings methodology.

Travel professionals are continuously challenged to demonstrate value of hotel programs in a market with increasing or changing rates. The primary driver behind the GBTA EU Hotel Committee developing this resource was to recommend best practices for specific savings calculations to meet a need for industry standards in this area.

The data analysed came from a survey conducted in Europe between April and July 2016 with 112 respondents: United Kingdom (28 percent), Nordics (23 percent), Germany (17 percent), Spain (14 percent), France (10 percent) and other countries (8 percent). In terms of hotel spend, 30 percent of survey respondents had travel programs that spent more than €30M in hotels, 32 percent were between €5M and €30M and 38 percent had less than €5M in hotel spend.

According to the results of the survey, methods for saving calculations in the travel buyer community in Europe are widespread and there is no single savings methodology used by over 80 percent of respondents. However, the predominant savings calculation methodology is “old contract rate vs new contract rate per room night with no adjustment of market increases” (67 percent). Savings are usually calculated as a lump sum (64 percent) and the most popular primary source of data is travel agency bookings (71 percent). Almost two in five (38 percent) respondents reported savings on Last Room Availability.

The new resource created by the GBTA EU Hotel Committee looks closely at 10 different saving methodologies to provide a better understanding of them for travel management professionals. The primary reason most people are using the predominant savings calculation methodology of “old contract rate vs new contract rate per room night with no adjustment of market increases” is that it is a simple and easy way of doing calculations.

It is important to consider, however, that results are not 100 percent accurate if the market has significantly increased its rates. If we compare “old contract rate vs new contract rate per room night with market adjustment” the results will be more accurate, reflecting the value of negotiations, but it will be difficult to talk about savings internally as it includes cost avoidance principles. It is important that travel buyers agree internally on savings methodology calculations. Do not look to complicate matters, but instead look to demonstrate value. Technology, price audits, hotel program and VAT reimbursement are all key elements to also consider when building or improving your hotel program.

The resource also features recommendations on the information to be included in a hotel tender. The resource is available free of charge to GBTA Members on the GBTA Hub.