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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.
Marriott International revealed that hackers breached its reservation system, compromising the personal data of up to 500 million guests, The New York Times reports. The personal information includes credit card numbers, addresses, and passport numbers.
The hack began four years ago, and the hackers left behind clues that suggest they were working for a Chinese government intelligence-gathering operation, CNBC notes.
According to Travel Weekly, the hotel chain could face a fine of up to £20 million because of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Canada’s Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced a new Open Skies-type agreement between Canada and the UK, TravelDailyNews International reports. The agreement will allow Canadian and British air carriers to operate between both countries and give full flexibility on route selection, service frequency, and pricing. It will take effect after Brexit, when the UK will no longer be covered by the EU-Canada Air Transport Agreement.
GBTA wrapped up its ninth annual conference in Europe last week, with nearly 1,100 attendees from 30+ countries. The hot topics of the conference were automation, fragmentation and consolidation.
During the conference, our Executive Director & COO Mike McCormick and Konstantin Sixt discussed the future of mobility, challenges facing ground transportation and the future of Sixt as a company.
According to TravelPulse, Uber is launching a new minibus service in Cairo. The ride-sharing company wants to alleviate traffic congestion by enticing individuals to use the minibus service in place of personal automobiles.
At the beginning of the month, Conde Nast Traveler reports LaGuardia opened 11 gates in its brand new Terminal B, amounting to 243,000 square feet of space.
Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Waymo launched the first phase of its self-driving ride-hailing service in Phoenix on Wednesday, Auto Rental News writes. A limited number of people can access the app to hail a self-driving vehicle, and each car will feature a safety driver for the duration of the ride.
In other ground transportation news, peer-to-peer car rental app Getaround launched in Denver on Thursday. According to BusinessDen, car owners can list their vehicles for rent through the app by providing a description of their car and setting an availability schedule.
United launched a new premium economy offering for its longer international flights, CNBC notes. The seats fall between coach and business class and come with more legroom, amenity kits, and other perks.
This week’s episode of The Business of Travel features a recent GBTA webinar on the REAL ID Act. Steve Yonkers, Director of the REAL ID Program for the Department of Homeland Security, provides an update on the implementation of REAL ID giving you an understanding on what states are still not compliant and what progress is being made, as well as how REAL ID applies to state issued driver’s licenses and ID cards and what alternatives there are for identification at security checkpoints if your state is not compliant.
This episode is presented by the GBTA Government Relations Committee in an effort to keep you up to date as more unfolds on REAL ID and to minimize any disruption for your travelers.
For more information, you can visit the DHS REAL ID website.
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Thai-based hospitality group Minor Hotels has purchased an additional stock in NH Hotels, increasing its holding to 94%, Business Traveller reports. The purchase will enable Minor Hotels to expand in Europe, while also allowing NH Hotels to put down roots in Asia.
Icelandair has signed an agreement to buy budget airline WOW Air for nearly $18 million USD (approximately €15.9 million), Buying Business Travel notes.
According to France24, Airbnb is being sued by French hoteliers for unfair competition. The main trade group for French hotels, The Union of Trades and Industries of the Hotel Industry (UMIH) accuses the home-sharing company of “knowingly violating” certain imposed rules.
What will the election mean for business travel? Regardless of who wins or loses, a change in committee leadership means a change in governing philosophies, ultimately affecting our industry. Here are the main travel-related committees to keep an eye on.
Birmingham Airport has unveiled a £500m master plan to increase capacity and improve the traveler experience, Buying Business Travel notes. The investment aligns with the airport’s desire to grow traffic by 40% (to 18 million passengers annually) by 2033.
Over the next 20 years, China will account for approximately 19% of the world’s aircraft demand, Business Traveller reports. According to Airbus’ Global Market Forecast, the country is projected to require nearly 7,400 new passenger and freighter aircraft.
Star Alliance is putting virtual reality technology to the test in select lounges, Business Traveller writes. Travelers flying through CDG in Paris and FCO in Rome can try out the virtual reality systems, which may eventually be offered on planes and across lounges globally.
The TSA will begin testing new technology that can screen multiple passengers from up to 25 feet away, Los Angeles Times reports. If the terahertz screening devices pass the initial tests at a TSA facility, they may be further tested at U.S. airports.
According to IATA’s latest 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast, air traffic could double to 8.2 billion travelers in 2037. The forecast also outlines China, the United States, India, Indonesia and Thailand as the fastest growing aviation markets.
A no-deal Brexit would result in 5 million fewer outbound trips made globally by 2022, Travel Weekly reports. These findings come from a new study by Euromonitor International. They also claim Spain will see the brunt of this, since UK travelers account for nearly 21% of inbound revenues in the country.
Following in Lyft’s footsteps, ride-sharing company Uber has launched a Ride Pass subscription option in select cities, Business Traveller notes.
Chicago’s O’Hare Airport received a new 2.5 million square-foot parking and car rental facility on Wednesday, ABC7 reports. The $242 million facility features 13 car rental agencies, 12 electronic charging stations and “innovative parking guidance technology”.
Will the Democrats take the House? Will the Republicans retain control of the Senate? Pollsters have been trying to predict the outcome for months now. As we head into the midterm elections today, if there is anything we learned from following the polls in the 2016 Presidential election, it is that no one really knows what will happen until the results are in.
At GBTA, we are not in the business of predicting elections, but we do want to let you know what impact the election can have on business travel – regardless of who wins or loses today.
Here are three key travel-related committees to keep an eye on:
House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee - Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) is currently serving his third term as Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. As one of the largest committees in Congress, it has broad jurisdiction over all modes of transportation and other aspects of our national infrastructure as well. Shuster is retiring from Congress, meaning the chair of this Committee will change regardless of the election outcome.
If the House flips, the current Democratic ranking member who would become the chair is Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Rep. DeFazio was a sponsor of the FASTER Act, which GBTA strongly supported. He does however, support raising the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). GBTA will continue to engage on these important issues as an increase in the PFC could have a significant impact on the bottom line for companies sending business travelers on the road for roughly 40 million business trips a month – most of which involve air travel.
If the Republicans remain in control of the House, there are two contenders in play to take on the chair role: Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO). Past Legislative Summit attendees may remember Rep. Denham as a speaker in 2015. He has done some positive work for business travelers with his efforts around passenger rail legislation. He is facing a tough reelection campaign that he will need to win first if he wants a chance to chair the Committee though. Rep. Graves is also a past Legislative Summit speaker and a longtime champion of business travel making him a two-time GBTA Navigator Award winner. Politico reports that Graves appears to be first-in-line in this contest, but that both Congressmen have expressed a desire to push a major infrastructure package as an early priority in the next Congress.
House Homeland Security Committee – With current Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) reaching his term limit, the leadership for the House Homeland Security Committee will also change regardless of whether the House flips or not. It is not completely clear who will take over should the Republicans maintain control, but Mike Rogers (R-AL) is seen as the most likely.
If the Democrats win the House, ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-MS) would be the next chairman. Thompson has been the top Democrat on the Committee since 2005.
Given the many security items incorporated into the recently passed FAA Reauthorization bill, the Committee will likely focus more attention on TSA oversight issues going forward including workforce and union concerns, whistleblower protections and employee misconduct. Thompson has also shown interest in the growing use of biometric technology and facial recognition by Customs Border Protection and TSA, along with what privacy concerns this technology poses.
Additionally, Politico reported that a Thompson aide has said Democrats want to examine immigration policies that have come out of the Trump Administration including the travel ban, border wall and disaster response.
Senate Commerce Committee – Sen. John Thune (R-SD), current chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, is expected to move to the role of Senate Majority Whip should the Republicans retain control of the Senate.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) is expected to take on the chair role in this case. His priorities on transportation are not yet known. When it comes to aviation, he has spoken out against regulatory policies that make it harder for the airlines to do business out of concern that this typically means if airlines need to cut service, it will be to less-profitable, rural routes like his state. However, he has also been opposed to the airlines’ views on several issues including pulling air traffic control operations from the FAA and supporting language in the FAA Bill that would bar unreasonable change and cancellation fees (this ultimately was not included in the final bill). In other modes of transportation, he has long been a proponent for maintaining Amtrak’s long-distance routes and will likely be a key voice for Amtrak on this front if he becomes chair.
If the Democrats take control of the Senate, the front-runner to chair the Committee is Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are also in the mix. Sen. Kobluchar is another long-time champion of business travel and an inaugural winner of GBTA’s first Navigator Award in 2016.
GBTA will be following the election results closely as they come in Tuesday night and will monitor the changes in committee leadership as that unfolds. Travel has always been a bipartisan issue and we will continue to work closely with leaders on both sides of the aisle to ensure the voice of the business travel industry is heard.
I encourage you to help make our collective voice stronger by attending our Legislative Summit next spring and letting your members of Congress know how important business travel is to our economy.
You can also stay up-to-date on GBTA’s advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., Brussels and around the world by subscribing to GBTA’s bi-weekly Politics of Travel email from GBTA’s Vice President of Government Relations, Shane Downey.
Earlier this month, I sent the note below as an email to GBTA members outlining why the FAA Reauthorization is such a big win for business travel. Read on below for more and tune in to this week’s GBTA podcast where I had the opportunity to talk with Shane Downey, GBTA Vice President of Government Relations, along with Todd Webster of Cornerstone Government Affairs for an in-depth discussion on the recently passed FAA Reauthorization Bill and what it means for business travel.
In a rare act of bipartisanship in today’s political landscape, Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass a bill that reauthorizes the budget for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for five years. Before the President signed the FAA Bill into law, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 93-6 and it passed the House by a similarly large margin with a vote of 398-23.
Why is this such a big win for business travel?
As the voice of the business travel industry on Capitol Hill, GBTA staff tirelessly advocates for policies that better the business travel industry. Our Government Relations Committee provides insight to help us identify the issues that matter most, our Chapters engage in advocacy through our annual Government Relations Challenge, and most importantly, many of our members attend our Legislative Summit each year to take our collective voice to the Hill and meet with their Senators and Representatives.
In this one bill, virtually all of the priority issues we have included in our Legislative Agenda for the past five years have now become a reality.
Long-Term Reauthorization: GBTA has been calling for a long-term FAA Reauthorization to provide stability to the nation’s air traffic control system, ensuring the ongoing safe, secure and efficient facilitation of air travel. This bill marks the first five-year extension since 1982. This follows years of instability created by three authorization extensions from 2015-2017, a federal government shutdown in 2013, a lapse in the FAA authorization in 2011 and 23 short-term extensions from 2007 to 2012.
An End to the Diversion of Security Fees: Over the past year, GBTA has been one of the lone organizations supporting the FASTER Act, which would end the practice of diverting a portion of the 9-11 security fee charged on each air ticket toward the national deficit. GBTA argued that this money should go towards security and improving TSA’s efforts as it was intended. This bill ends the current practice of diverting 60 cents on every fee charged by 2027.
PreCheck is PreCheck: PreCheck is a win for all passengers, leading to increased traveler satisfaction and overall safety. This new bill mandates that only those prescreened passengers enrolled in trusted traveler programs can use the PreCheck lanes. It also enacts measures to increase marketing and enrollment capabilities through authorized third parties, which will ultimately continue to strengthen the benefits of PreCheck.
No Voice Calls on Planes: GBTA has long-advocated for #NoCallsOnPlanes as the vast majority of business travelers oppose voice calls on planes. This bill calls for a regulation prohibiting calls on planes. As we always say, sometimes silence really is golden.
Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs): The bill did not include an increase in the PFC, which is a tax on air travelers and essentially a tax on the cost of doing business. The bill also calls for the formation of an expert panel to investigate the need for infrastructure, resources and the impact of increasing the fee – specifically calling out for representation from the business travel industry to act as a stakeholder on the panel. This is the direct result of our efforts to demonstrate the diverse needs of the leisure and business travel industries and showcase the important economic impact of our industry.
Rental Car Taxation: This bill prohibits discriminatory taxes on rental cars at airport locations, meaning that state and local governments can no longer put a tax on a rental car that they wouldn’t put on any other purchase. For example, specific car rental taxes used to pay for new stadiums targeted at travelers renting cars who are not from their voting district would be prohibited.
Business Traveler Protections: Finally, the bill included some consumer protections that will look out for our business travelers including mandates to set new minimum requirements for seats on airplanes; a call to refund passengers for services they paid for but did not receive; and for regulators to determine if it is unfair or deceptive for airlines to tell passengers that a flight is delayed or canceled due to weather alone when other factors are involved.
Thank you to all of our members who have been a part of our advocacy efforts over the years. It was your collective voice that allowed our industry to achieve this tremendous milestone. The fight is never over though when it comes to advocacy as we must remain vigilant on these issues and stay on top of our next priorities. I encourage you all to attend our Legislative Summit next spring to make our voice even stronger. You can also stay up-to-date on GBTA’s advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., Brussels and around the world by subscribing to GBTA’s bi-weekly Politics of Travel email from GBTA’s Vice President of Government Relations, Shane Downey.
I would also like to thank our long-time friends and colleagues at Cornerstone Government Affairs. Our partnership over the past eight years has been exceptional and your contributions to our success immeasurable.
In closing, it is worth again calling out the outstanding bi-partisan work in Congress and the White House to look past ideological differences and put the future of the business travel industry – and business travelers that drive our economy – first. We hope that this is a model for future success for the global business travel industry and our leaders in Washington.
On this week’s episode of The Business of Travel, GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick talks with Shane Downey, GBTA Vice President of Government Relations, along with Todd Webster of Cornerstone Government Affairs for an in-depth discussion on the recently passed FAA Reauthorization Bill and what it means for business travel.
GBTA Calls on EU and UK Leaders to Agree on Outstanding Issues in the Withdrawal Agreement
Progress in the Brexit negotiations since the June 2018 European Council Summit has been slow by every measure. The UK and EU negotiating teams have met in Brussels since mid-August in the hope of finalizing the outstanding issues in the Withdrawal Agreement preparing the exit of the UK from the EU. Despite these efforts, they have reached the long-earmarked deadline of the October European Council Summit without evidence of clear progress on some of the key remaining issues relating to the Withdrawal Agreement, such as Northern Ireland.
Even despite positive talks over the weekend, political considerations have brought us back to square one.
In this context, ahead of the European leaders’ Summit taking place on 17-18 October, GBTA stresses once again that securing the Withdrawal Agreement and transition remains essential for the business travel industry. The lack of progress in negotiations puts into question the feasibility of guaranteeing certainty for businesses with an effective, predictable transition period as of March 2019. Letting the UK leave the EU without a deal would lead to brutal changes to the current trading, economic and social environments causing serious consequences on business travelers themselves, as citizens and as business representatives.
Although GBTA welcomes the EU and the UK’s increased activities on preparing stakeholders for every outcome including a “no deal”, with publications of many technical notices (UK and EU), the priority remains to not reach that point. We appreciate the fact that aviation is one of the few areas in which the European Commission and the UK Government has been forthcoming with their contingency planning. The UK has in fact committed to unilaterally grant permits to allow EU airlines to continue providing their services in the UK. We can only hope that the EU-27 will agree to reciprocate these permits for UK airlines even in the case of a no deal.
While Brexit contingency planning for the aviation sector is relatively advanced, if not properly managed, risks still exist that would undermine many key principles critical to the business travel industry. GBTA has been continuously defending the need for proper connectivity, robust competition and high standards for safety and security measures for travelers as well.
That is why GBTA calls on the EU and the UK to harness the general momentum to conclude the Withdrawal Agreement, including the vital transition period, by mid-November at the latest. This will ensure the EU-27, the European Parliament and the UK Parliament have sufficient time to adopt the provisions of the agreement. GBTA also looks forward to EU and UK negotiators initiating discussions on the framework for the future trading relationship between the EU and the UK, especially when it comes to future aviation arrangements.
Finally, GBTA looks forward to meeting with key EU decision makers again this week to discuss Brexit and its impact on the business travel sector at this critical juncture.
For this week’s episode, The Business of Travel talks with Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement for ECPAT-USA about ways the travel industry can help put an end to child trafficking. Michelle also discussed the importance of urging Congress to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
For this week’s episode, The Business of Travel talks with GBTA’s VP of Government Relations, Shane Downey. Shane provides updates on the latest advocacy efforts on the U.S. front including the FASTER Act, the PreCheck is PreCheck Act, Real ID and FAA Reauthorization.
Want to stay on top of the latest GBTA advocacy efforts on behalf of the business travel industry across the globe? Subscribe to Shane’s bi-weekly Politics of Travel email today.