Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, May 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
THE GBTA CONVENTION in Denver welcomed more than 6,000 attendees, including 400 exhibitors and more than 1,200 buyers, and featured more than 70 educational sessions.
Keynote speakers included Henry Paulson, treasury secretary in the last Bush administration, former Ebay CEO Meg Whitman and Hollywood star Sean Penn.
Paulson said a vital factor in boosting business travel to the US would be a radical reform of the visa system. Whitman’s key message was to innovate or die, and she urged businesses to employ creative mavericks to help achieve this.
Penn spoke movingly about his experiences working with the J/P Haitian Relief Organization in the aftermath the 2010 earthquake, and urged travel bosses to help bring business back to the island.
The association also unveiled its new GBTA Academy, an educational programme for business travel professionals at all levels of experience.
In a panel debate on airline distribution, Travelport boss Gordon Wilson accused airline CEOs of failing to recognise the value of distribution, stressing that the global distribution systems provide an extraordinarily valuable service to the supplier community.
Aviation was a predominant topic, which among other things highlighted the differences between the market scene in the US and China. While Hainan Airlines chairman Wang Yingming talked about growing seat capacity, international networks and profits without “marrying” into an alliance, it was a different story stateside. US Airways Group CEO Doug Parker talked about the dangers of fuel price hedging, and complained that aviation in the US was taxed at levels comparable to cigarettes and alcohol, "like we are a vice”.
Expertise in detailed analysis of "scrubbed" accurate data is essential to make significant travel savings, Travel GPA CEO Rock Blanco told delegates. Verisign travel manager Yasuo Sonoda revealed findings that showed a 5 per cent decrease in travel costs was equivalent to a 30 per cent increase in sales revenue in terms of impact on a business’s bottom line, and that 20 per cent more compliance in one company resulted in $1.7 million savings on a $27m annual travel expenditure.
THE DUTCH COASTAL RESORT of Noordwijk was home to the GBTA’s Europe conference, themed as ‘the 3rd Dimension’ – the need for buyers and suppliers to have relationships with others crucial to the industry. The two-day conference was attended by 320 delegates from around the world.
Travel buyers must work closely with other company departments to ensure a successful programme, Intel global commodity manager Chani Honig told delegates. “HR owns the policy, the procedures and the connectivity with the employees. We own the sourcing strategy, the negotiations, the cost impact and managing the suppliers. She said each division has a different focus: HR on keeping the travellers happy and procurement on the costs. “There is a balance between the cost impact and the travellers’ happiness. You prioritise. You can’t have everything you want so you need those discussions,” she said.
KPMG security manager Jerry Nelson said he had set up a travel security programme in 2006 working with the procurement department, establishing information on employees and their experience of travelling in risky regions. “Without these things you can’t have a travel security programme. I see myself as an enabler,” he said. “My challenge is to send our people into these hostile locations and to do it safely. Currently we are trying to get back into Libya and Kabul.”
There is a huge conspiracy between airlines and their passengers which leaves the travel buyer in the middle, Institute of Travel & Meetings (ITM) chairman Jamie Hindhaugh told delegates. He said carriers that unbundle their products make it both more confusing and more difficult for buyers to manage their policy. Hindhaugh, who is also head of procurement for the BBC, was speaking in a session on whether travel was a commodity. He said being a commodity did not mean that there was no choice. “Buyers work with what is available,” he said. “All travel is the same. You need to understand the requirements of business and what is available from the supplier.”
Jake Cefolia, United Airlines’ managing director for global corporate accounts, argued that travel was “definitively not a commodity”. He told delegates: “Customers are constantly making trade-offs on what they are prepared to pay and the attributes of the airline.” Airlines offered different products for passengers to choose from. “Some companies just pay for the basic service of transportation,” said Cefolia. "Other companies see their people as a key asset which can earn them a profit.”