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July 31, 2015

GBTA Roundup: What Happened at the 2015 Conference




The Global Business Travel Association has wrapped up its annual convention in Orlando, Florida, with record buyer attendance. In total, the event had  6,389 attendees, including 1,366 travel buyers, making this one of the largest GBTA Conventions in history. The Expo floor had more than 400 exhibitors showcasing the latest products and services in business travel.

The first industry session Monday was held at Center Stage, with Charisse Jones of USA Today asking hard-hitting questions from Southwest Airlines’ Gary Kelly and Etihad Airlines’ James Hogan. The interviews focused on the future of airline competition, Open Skies, antitrust issues and the characteristics that each CEO felt set their airline apart.

Next on Center Stage, Guy Langford of Deloitte & Touche LLP moderated a panel on differentiating branding in a sharing economy featuring two executives from more traditional companies, Enterprise Holdings and NH Hotel Group, and two executives from companies clearly playing in a sharing economy, Airbnb and Zipcar. A main takeaway from the panel was technology is becoming a cornerstone of delivering on the customer experience and companies can either disrupt or be disrupted as they strive to deliver on the three C’s: convenience, cost-savings and customer experience.

Monday’s Arena stage speaker was actor, director and musician Kevin Bacon. Bacon spoke about his career in the entertainment industry; the genesis of the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon game and his Six Degrees Foundation,  which connects celebrities with deserving grass-roots charities. He concluded by talking about how travel creates “connections” among people and how he tries to live by the idea of “doing what [he] can with what [he’s] got.” This was followed by a Q&A with Bacon and GBTA Board Member and Founder of WINiT Mick Lee where Bacon talked about his role models, what actor he would most like to be in a movie with that he hasn’t yet and more.

GBTA President and CEO Donna Kelliher took the stage Monday to announce the launch of GBTA’s All Access Membership which launched this week. All Access members can join their local chapter and GBTA in a single transaction. The new membership will integrate technology platforms, allowing for more efficient and effective communication and networking.

Tuesday morning, Dorothy Dowling, SVP at Best Western Marketing and Sales, led a panel on the Future of the Travel Distribution Landscape at GBTA Convention 2015. She was joined by Douglas Anderson, CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel; Scott V. Alvis, Chief Marketing Officer of Amadeus North America; and David Pavelko, Director of Travel Partnerships for Google.

The three panelists agreed that the industry is undergoing a technological revolution. Business travelers are looking for a booking experience similar to the online consumer experience.  Additionally, there is a blurring of the lines taking place between business and leisure travel.  Travel providers are responding by developing user-friendly mobile applications that are more tailored and provide users with the right information at the right time.

GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick led a second morning panel on Ground Transportation in a Sharing Economy. McCormick was joined by John Rose, Chief Operating Officer of iJET International; Scott Solombrino, President and CEO Dav El / Boston Coach Chauffeured Transportation Network and David Seelinger, Chairman and CEO of EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services.

During the panel, McCormick detailed new data showing many companies may not have a policy in place regarding ride-sharing companies. Panelists said that amazing new technologies have come to market, but travel buyers need to take steps to ensure that they have the right policies in place to ensure Duty of Care. They also called for a “level playing field” to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace.

Several GBTA Members were honored during the afternoon session. GBTA Member Torbjörn Erling of IKEA was named GBTA’s Direct Member of the Year and Marie Downey of United was awarded GBTA’s Allied Member of the Year honor.

GBTA Board Member Scott Solombrino also delivered a tribute to longtime GBTA Member, American Express’ Ed Gilligan, who passed away earlier this year. “Ed was a hero to his clients, to this industry and to me,” said Solmbrino. “And I know he’ll never be forgotten.”

Tuesday wrapped up with Nina Easton of Fortune conducting an entertaining interview with Silicon Valley Icon and Philanthropist Steve Wozniak. The co-founder of Apple Computer who was integral in the launching of the personal computer industry chatted about wanting to be an engineer since he was a young boy, bonding with Steve Jobs over their love of pranks and why he wanted to build a personal computer. When asked about technology’s impact on business travel, he said the one thing that won’t change is the importance of socialization – people are social, so the need for business travel will always be there.

Megyn Kelly took the stage in Convention Arena on Wednesday to close the show. She spoke about the three most formative events in her life that shaped the person she is today, what made her make the jump from law to journalism and gave her take on current events. Following that, in a Q&A with McCormick, she revealed what made her want to be on TV, her role models and how she deals with criticism. Talking about the upcoming Republican debate, she said the preparation is intense and immense and by far the most important thing she has done at FOX.

Next year’s Convention will be in Denver, Colorado running from July 16-20, 2016.


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