The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

Week in Review

Happy New Year! The Week in Review is back in action to provide you with the latest business travel industry news.

In late November, Marriott announced that approximately 500 million guests (who made a reservation at a Starwood property) were impacted in a data breach. Today, the hospitality company downgraded its estimate to 383 million compromised records, Skift reports. Since some guests have multiple records in Marriott's system, the number of guests impacted is likely less than 383 million.

According to BBC, London’s Heathrow Airport and Sussex’s Gatwick Airport will invest millions of pounds in anti-drone equipment that can obstruct communications between drones and their operators. This move follows a drone disruption at Gatwick that caused 1,000 cancelled flights over 3 days last month.

In acquisition news, Flight Centre Travel Group has agreed to acquire Casto Travel’s U.S. operations, Skift writes. The Australia-based travel agency has a mission to strengthen its North American presence. has released its list of the safest airlines in the world for 2019, with Qantas topping the list, USA TODAY notes. The list also includes the 10 safest low-cost airlines.

Qatar Airways acquired a 5 percent stake in China Southern Airlines on 28 December, Buying Business Travel reports. The airline also holds shares in International Airlines Group, LATAM Airlines Group, Air Italy, and Cathay Pacific.

New York was the world’s top destination for business travel in 2018, Business Traveller writes. The annual rankings from Egencia highlight the most traveled-to destinations for business. London, Paris, Shanghai, and Toronto are also among the top five destinations.

According to Skift, new safety concerns present a complicated challenge for event organizers. From extreme weather to terrorist attacks to widespread disease outbreaks, the duty of care bar continues to rise for event planners.

Singapore Airlines is now offering passengers the ability to pre-book their meal choices, Business Traveller reports. This only applies to travelers in suites, first and business class.

Buying Business Travel writes on the importance of having proper risk management processes and programs in place. Is your organization prepared to locate and help your travelers in the face of an emergency?

According to Business Traveller, the global ridesharing industry is valued at $61.3 billion and is expected to grow to $218 billion by 2025.

Podcast: Leveraging Security and Travel to Build a Better Travel Risk Management Program

For this week’s episode, The Business of Travel gives listeners a taste of one of our more than 170 education sessions that took place at GBTA Convention 2018 last month in San Diego. Attendees can access all of these sessions covering the gamut of top travel industry issues including duty of care, technology and innovation, procurement, sustainability and so much more with GBTA Convention 2018 On Demand.

This risk-focused education session, conducted in partnership with ASIS International, called Leveraging Security and Travel to Build a Better Travel Risk Management Program features Ben Coleman, Global Security Executive Services Manager for Facebook and GBTA Risk Committee member, focused on identifying the benefits of security and travel professionals partnering to develop and implement a best in class Travel Risk Management Program.



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!

Managing Kidnapping Risk

American organizations are at risk of kidnapping around the world – it’s vital they manage the risks.

Hostage US estimates that around 200 Americans are kidnapped overseas each year. Some are taken by criminals in countries such as Mexico and Brazil, some are taken by terrorists in the Middle East, Afghanistan and parts of Africa, while others still are detained by hostile regimes, such as Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. While many would be surprised to learn the scale of the problem facing American citizens, the exposure for American organizations is even greater, with some confiding they experience a dozen or more every year. 

Most cases don’t make the headlines; negotiators often opt to keep the case below the radar to avoid increasing the value of the hostage and to limit the number of phishing attempts by third parties keen to get a cut of the ransom payment. 

The types of organizations impacted have changed over the past decade or so. It used to be the case that journalists and aid workers could count on their mission to keep them safe – not anymore. Journalists and aid workers are taken alongside engineers, contractors, tourists and business executives. 

All organizations need to do the following:

  • Identify your risks and ensure you have the correct security and mitigation policies and mechanisms in place
  • Ensure travelers to medium- and high-risk locations receive detailed security advice about where to stay, how to travel, how to behave – and that they know who to contact should they experience a problem
  • Regularly train your crisis management team in how to respond in the event of a hostage incident
  • Train your HR and security teams together with legal and corporate communications in how to liaise with and support the hostage’s family during the incident
  • Audit your resources to ensure you have all you need to effectively support the family
  • Create a return to work plan for any member of staff or contractor returning from captivity – getting this post-release phase right can make all the difference to a former hostage’s chances of a smooth transition back to life and work
  • De-brief after the hostage incident has concluded – what did you do right, what would you do differently next time, and what lessons can you share with colleagues and partners to help them learn from your experiences

Kidnapping is a low-frequency, high-impact crime. It affects a broader range of American enterprises than ever before. There is much you can do to prevent it from happening, but if and when it does, it pays to be prepared. 

Podcast: Travel Safety is a Shared Responsibility - Episode 1

In the inaugural episode of The Business of Travel, GBTA takes on duty of care. Mike McCormick, Executive Director and COO for GBTA, sets the stage highlighting the current state of the industry and discussing what we hear from GBTA members when it comes to duty of care. Next up, Mike Koetting, Executive Vice President of Supplier and TMC Services for SAP Concur, touches on the implications of booking behavior when it comes to keeping travelers safe. Finally, Erin Wilk, Global Security Travel Safety Manager for Facebook, talks about best practices for building a strong travel safety program and where buyers can turn to for resources.



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

GBTA Launches All-New Podcast

GBTA is launching its first official podcast this week. The Business of Travel will cover all topics related to business travel. Expect weekly episodes, each featuring several short interviews with industry experts and thought leaders on a range of key issues affecting the business travel industry.  

Listen to a preview now:



Our first episode takes on duty of care. Mike McCormick, Executive Director and COO for GBTA, sets the stage highlighting the current state of the industry and discussing what we hear from GBTA members when it comes to duty of care. Next up, Mike Koetting, Executive Vice President of Supplier and TMC Services for Concur, touches on the implications of booking behavior when it comes to keeping travelers safe. Finally, Erin Wilk, Global Security Travel Safety Manager for Facebook, talks about best practices for building a strong travel safety program and where buyers can turn to for resources.

The inaugural episode will be available here on the GBTA Blog this Wednesday, and soon you will be able to subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher as well. Look out for a new episode every Wednesday featuring in-depth discussions on the most relevant business travel topics.

Duty of Care: What Travel Buyers Need to Focus On

During GBTA’s recent conference in Europe, Xavier Carn of International SOS and Control Risks joined Mike McCormick at the Broadcast Studio to talk risk management and what travel buyers need to pay attention to when it comes to meeting their duty of care responsibilities.

Xavier said it is important for buyers to embed in their travel management process the ability to evaluate and asses their risks, and also to design policies to help mitigate those risks as well. He also shared information on updates coming to the International SOS Travel Risk Map in 2018, and discussed the importance of communicating and taking action during the first hour of a crisis.

Watch the full interview here:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s Europe Conference conducted in partnership with VDR.

Don’t Risk a Holiday Season that is Memorable for the Wrong Reasons…!

The U.S. State Department recently issued a travel alert warning of a heightened terrorist threat in Europe during the holiday season. Increased security is to be anticipated in urban centers, airports, tourist locations and Christmas markets throughout Europe, including France, Belgium, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.  ISIS continues to publish aspirational threats against targets in Europe via social media with direct reference to the holiday season. While this alert currently expires on January 31, 2018, it serves today as a reminder of the importance of pre-trip education and preparedness.

Whether the holiday hustle and bustle has you traveling to tie up year-end business activities or to be present at fun family events, you must remember the importance of your personal safety and security!  Here are a few tips to keep in mind so that your holiday season stays safe and memorable for all the right reasons:

  1. Maintain a heightened sense of confidence and situational awareness. Always be alert to suspicious behavior and trust your intuition. 
  2. Travel in groups of two or more when you are able. Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return.
  3. Program emergency contact information into your mobile device so you have easy access to security and medical support, if needed.
  4. Keep your mobile phone charged and with you at all times.  Ensure the appropriate data plan is activated for your destination.
  5. Make two copies of your passport and other important identification documents (leave a copy of these documents at home or in the office with someone you trust).
  6. Pack valuables (e.g. laptops, cameras, jewelry, mobile devices) in carry-on luggage. Minimize the handling of this luggage by others and keep track of your valuables at all times.
  7. Use a privacy screen when using your laptop in any public space (e.g. hotel lobbies and airplanes). Use caution when downloading or clicking on any unknown links.
  8. Prepare your home appropriately while you are away.  If you have a security system, ensure that it is working properly and arrange for someone you trust to check on your home periodically.
  9. Refrain from posting details about your trip on social media until you return home.  This information can be exploited by others and highlights that your home is unoccupied, making it an easier target for burglary or other
  10. Watch the weather.  Not only can it impact your packing list, it can also cause delays or inconveniences that may impact your travel.

After the Hurricane: An Overview of Hidden Health Risks

The following post is written by Reade Bush, PA-C, Assistant Medical Director, Generali Global Assistance on behalf of the GBTA Risk Committee.

Three recent hurricanes that struck Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, have left many short- and long-term health effects which will make for a very difficult recovery process.

In the first days of a hurricane, most of the deaths are from drowning, trauma due to structural collapse or downed trees, electrocution, or fire, which may be fed by natural gas leaks.

As the floodwaters recede, residents contend with the effects of infectious agents, particularly bacteria, parasites and mold that are prevalent in dirty water.  Cholera, E. coli, salmonella, Hepatitis A, cryptosporidium, giardia and typhoid are the most common infectious agents, all of which are easily transmitted by water.  Public water systems may get contaminated, or an insufficient supply of fresh water can leave people washing clothes, cleaning food, or bathing in dirty water which easily spreads disease.  This, in part, is why over 15,000 people died in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. These infectious agents cause fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration, and most are treatable if the infected reach the hospital quickly. Mold is the most insidious health concern.  It grows in damp, warm areas.  Inhalation of mold spores can lead to a variety of health problems including respiratory and neurological symptoms. 

Mold can hide in crawl spaces, behind walls, and other areas that are hard to locate, making it a difficult, long-term health problem.  Mold presents health-related problems for years after a hurricane strikes.

Residents also face hazards of broken glass, downed power lines, chemical leaks, natural gas leaks, or injury from structural collapse. The lack of power and refrigeration can lead to people suffering from heat-related illness or illness related to eating improperly stored food.  There were a number of elderly residents who died in Florida due to heat exposure at a nursing home which lost power for its cooling system.

There are also the hazards of bites from snakes, rodents and mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes, in particular, thrive on damp environments and can multiply rapidly in standing water.  They are vectors for Zika virus, which has had limited effects on the US mainland in recent years, West Nile, dengue and chikungunya virus.  Zika is a relatively new threat in the United States. It can cause significant birth defects when pregnant women become infected.

Other health issues arise from the stress that is put on the health care system.  Hospitals often lack sufficient staff to function, as regular staff members are displaced by the storm.  In many cases, health care workers from other states are called in to provide staffing. However, there were hospitals, especially in Puerto Rico, that had limited functionality and could not perform surgery due to power interruption.  In addition, hospitals and pharmacies face shortages in drugs or supplies, while at the same time, the interruption in transportation routes may cause delays in their supply chains.

Residents whose medical problems are generally managed on an outpatient basis, such as those on dialysis or home oxygen, face their own crisis when dialysis centers are closed by the storm or they run out of oxygen.  This is especially common due to electrical interruptions, since dialysis machines and home oxygen concentrators require power to operate.  The centers may have backup generators, or oxygen-dependent persons may store extra oxygen cylinders at home. However, backup generators requiring fuel may not be available.  Typically within 24 to 72 hours after a hurricane strikes, these residents may show up at hospitals, placing an added burden on hospitals that are already overtaxed.

In some cases, such as in Houston, the area affected by the path of the hurricane was so large that residents were told to shelter in place. But after the hurricane struck, some residents faced emergency evacuations due to rising water levels, threat of dam failure, or lack of power.  Institutions such as hospitals or nursing homes may be forced to evacuate large numbers of residents emergently, which places a huge burden on emergency responders.

Mental health is another area of concern as people who lose their homes, belongings, or experience deaths of loved ones may experience depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.  The havoc of a hurricane may lead to mental health issues for years after the storm is gone.

TSA Announces New U.S. Airport Screening Procedures for Electronics in Carry-On Bags

Today, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced the implementation of stronger screening procedures for carry-on items that require travelers to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening in standard lanes. This follows extensive testing and successful pilots at 10 airports, and will now expand to all U.S. airports during the weeks and months ahead.

We have heard from many of you, our members, that travelers will be willing to spend extra time at security to prevent an outright electronics ban, so we are pleased to see TSA taking steps to enhance security, while still ensuring business travelers can keep their devices with them throughout their flight. While security is, of course, the top priority, business travelers want to remain productive on trips, and more importantly have been trained to keep their devices close for security purposes because they may contain sensitive company information.

You can read the full release from TSA below:

TSA raising aviation security baseline with stronger domestic security measures

New U.S. airport screening procedures for carry-on bags to better focus on threats

WASHINGTON – To ensure the security of airline passengers and the nation’s airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is implementing new, stronger screening procedures for carry-on items that require travelers to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening in standard lanes. Following extensive testing and successful pilots at 10 airports, TSA plans to expand these measures to all U.S. airports during the weeks and months ahead.

Due to an increased threat to aviation security, DHS Secretary John Kelly announced in late June new security requirementsfor nearly 280 airports in more than 100 countries. In an effort to raise the baseline for aviation security worldwide, TSA continues to work closely with airports and airlines to enhance security measures and stay ahead of the evolving threat.

“Whether you’re flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia.

As new procedures are phased in, TSA officers will begin to ask travelers to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from their carry-on bags and place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image. It is possible that passengers may experience more bag checks, however, through extensive testing, TSA identified ways to improve screening procedures with quicker and more targeted measures to clear the bags.

The new screening procedures in standard lanes are already in place at the following 10 U.S. airports with plans to expand to all airports during the weeks and months ahead:

  • Boise Airport (BOI)
  • Colorado Springs Airport (COS)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB)
  • Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

In standard screening lanes, TSA officers will be stationed in front of the checkpoint X-ray machines to guide passengers through the screening process and recommend how best to arrange their carry-on items for X-ray screening. Travelers are encouraged to organize their carry-on bags and keep them uncluttered to ease the screening process and keep the lines moving. There are no changes to what travelers can bring through the checkpoint; food and liquid items that comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule, electronics, and books continue to be allowed in carry-on bags.

“It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe. By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats,” said Gowadia.

The stronger security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in TSA Pre® who are using TSA Pre® lanes. TSA also marked another milestone earlier this month with TSA Pre® now available at 200 airports nationwide. Travelers enrolled in TSA Pre® do not need to remove shoes, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, electronics, light outerwear, or belts. The program allows TSA to focus resources on passengers who may pose a high risk to security while providing expedited screening to those travelers who have been identified as low-risk, trusted travelers.


Tools for Identifying Risk Amongst the Noise

Amidst the current global risks, business travel remains vital to the economy. In spite of its importance, it can be challenging to sift through all available data to make responsible company decisions. So how can travel managers successfully navigate this process?

At the GBTA Canada Conference in April, COO Mike McCormick spoke with Peter Martin, the Vice Chairman of FocusPoint International, about best practices for risk management.

Martin highlighted the importance of being aware of potential risks and determining what the real threats are in a timely fashion. “Education is the cornerstone of all duty-of-care programs” and informing all employees of the latest policies is vital to a smooth work flow.

Another strategy for risk management is remaining alert for issues like car accidents, street crime and health issues, all things that can get lost in the media when a tragedy strikes. While it is extremely important to be aware of terror threats, travel managers must also pay careful attention to other risks that happen more frequently. By having plans for these issues in place and researching travel locations ahead of time, it allows travel programs to better inform their travelers.

To learn more tips for risk management, view the full video here:

Visit GBTA’s YouTube Channel for even more insight and Broadcast Studio interviews from this year’s GBTA Canada Conference in Toronto.