DENVER, CO – The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) – the voice of the global business travel industry, wrapped up its 48th annual Convention yesterday in Denver. Risk, duty of care and technology’s impact on business travel were the predominant themes throughout the five-day industry gathering that brought together more than 6,500 travel professionals and industry leaders.
Featured speakers included United CEO Oscar Munoz. Munoz offered a candid assessment of his airline, air travel in general, and what his company is doing to improve and innovate air travel for business passengers. “The airline industry has made travel hell for business travelers. We need to do better to improve the air travel experience. My goal is to show you can run a business with heart that also makes money for its investors,” Munoz told the audience.
TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger also took the stage for a one-on-one interview with GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick. Often maligned as an agency struggling with operational discipline and low employee morale, Administrator Neffenger sees these challenges as opportunities to overhaul how TSA is viewed by the traveling public and how TSA agents view themselves and their mission. “I came in on the heels of a report that said that the TSA wasn’t performing great,” Neffenger said. “This last year we focused on three areas of improvement. We needed to get better, we needed to be better with our resources and we needed to change the system, which had been the same for a long, long time.”
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 of 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 panelists agreed that 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.
CNN’s fiery Richard Quest moderated a discussion on the future of ground transportation between David Baga, Chief Business Officer of Lyft, and Scott Solombrino, CEO of Dav El / Boston Coach Chauffeured Transportation Network. Duty of care, fair wages for drivers and safety based on background checks seem to be where the traditional ground transportation companies make their strongest arguments. Ride-sharing services, on the other hand, point to their high demand and successful business model to make the argument that travelers have made their decision.
Actress and comedienne Julia Louis-Dreyfus – known for her iconic characters Selina Meyer from HBO’s VEEP, Christine Campbell from The New Adventures of Old Christine and Elaine Benes from Seinfeld – delighted the GBTA Convention audience during her interview with surprise interviewer Soledad O’Brien. During their lunch session, the two women shared stories of the evolving role of women in the media. Ms. Louis-Dreyfus said, “Very early on, I learned that I’m not going to keep doing this if it isn’t fun.” When Ms. O’Brien asked what advice Julia Louis-Dreyfus had for a younger version of herself, the actress shared advice that can apply to everybody: “find something that you’re passionate about and don’t quit it.”
Legendary NFL Quarterback Peyton Manning inspired the audience saying as a leader you should lead by your dreams and cultivate that same attitude in the people who work with you and for you.
Captain Scott Kelly might have more frequent flyer miles than any other business traveler history. As a Navy Captain and NASA astronaut, Kelly has spent more time in space than any other American – including his record-breaking year at the International Space Station. Despite his impressive and accomplished career, Kelly was not always destined to become an astronaut. He was able to reach his goal by, “having a large goal and achieving it by breaking it down into small, manageable steps.” Captain Kelly also believes that there are many similarities between space travel and business travel. “If you don’t try to make things better – even a little bit – they are going to get worse… Sometimes you have to prepare for a very unlikely scenario that could have a huge impact.”
GBTA concluded the event with 6,587 attendees, making this the largest GBTA Convention in history and one of the largest gatherings of travel professionals in the world. The completely sold out Expo floor featured over 400 exhibitors showcasing the latest products and services in business travel. Next year’s Convention will be in Boston, Massachusetts on July 15-19, 2017.