The momentum theme carried throughout the five-day convention’s duration with a focus on how the industry has evolved with prevailing trends and changing expectations, how it is moving forward into the 21st century, and the progress it’s made in the past five decades. Additionally, more than 170 education and professional development sessions, literal days of on-point speakers imparting wisdom from their various vantage points, and a show floor featuring more than 400 exhibitors were testaments to the scope of the industry’s reach and progression.
“We go to GBTA for two reasons: One is obviously to meet potential new clients and the other is to see our current clients,” says Robert Alexander of RMA Worldwide. “Being there enhances the power of our brand. If we are not there, our clients will wonder why—and if we want to be part of the conversation when companies choose a ground transportation provider, we have to be there. To these groups, out of sight is out of mind.”
“Having spent my entire career in corporate travel and transportation, I have been a GBTA attendee or exhibitor every year for decades,” adds Jeanne Caputo of MTC Worldwide. “GBTA is an incredibly important touch-point for any company interested in working with corporate clients. It isn’t a simple trade show: It is an event that translates into new business for us each and every year. We wouldn’t miss GBTA—it is money and time worth spending.”
Even GBTA’s own unique offerings propelled forward, fueled by previous years’ success and benefitting from their own annual growth. Its Innovation Row was back for a second year, giving mostly first-time exhibitors the chance to be featured attendees in a high-traffic area. The convention’s fourth-annual media day saw nearly 30 companies disseminating their breaking news on a national platform.
GBTA had a few announcements of its own, including the merger of WINiT for Women into GBTA, which will allow GBTA to take WINiT’s mission worldwide. Members of GBTA and WINiT will benefit through access to both organization’s programs, services, and an expanded network of approximately 12,000 industry professionals. Additionally, leadership from GBTA and the Institute of Travel Management (ITM), the leading managed business travel association in the U.K. and Ireland, announced a joint venture that is part of a deeper, collaborative partnership between both associations.
The association also held an on-site election for its open Global Board of Directors positions. The three Direct Member at Large positions on the 2018-2019 board are Tricia Alsup of Dollar General, Kathy Briski of The Boeing Company, and Erin Wilk of Facebook (Briski and Wilk return after being appointed in 2017, while Alsup is a first-time member). The Allied Member at Large position will be held by Doug Payne of ALTOUR, who has previously served two terms from 2011-2015.
This year saw the merging of social awareness and the unique position of business travel to thwart the growing threat of human trafficking with GBTA’s first-ever Awareness 5K Run & Walk, which included 200 registered participants and benefited ECPAT-USA, the American chapter of the world’s leading anti-trafficking policy organization. The nonprofit received a $20,000 check on the convention’s final day.
In addition to traditional education like seminars, workshops, demos, and panels, an array of high-profile speakers shared their insights on Center Stage to address business travel’s most pressing issues. As only the third person in 90 years to head the largest hotel company in the world, Marriott International President & CEO Arne Sorenson discussed the business travel industry, the shakeup over group commissions, and the company’s home-sharing strategy in a one-on-one interview with GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael McCormick on Monday. Immediately after, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Best Western Hotels Dorothy Dowling led a session of top female business travel executives discussed the unique challenges they faced as women arriving in leadership positions within their companies.
McCormick later interview Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, where the two highlighted technology’s potential to increase security and passenger facilitation. Kurt Ekert, CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, led a panel of experienced travel buyers in a shift from typical GBTA Convention Center Stage sessions. And Guy Langford, Deloitte’s Vice Chairman, U.S. Transportation, Hospitality, & Services Leader, asked a panel of executives covering various sectors of the business travel industry if bigger really is better, prompting a discussion of advantages and disadvantages of industry consolidation.
The keynote stage at Convention Arena featured sports icon, social justice pioneer, and entrepreneur Billie Jean King; investor on ABC’s Shark Tank, chairman of O’Shares ETF Investments Financial Group, and bestselling author Kevin O’Leary; and John Walsh, victims’ rights advocate and host of Discovery ID’s In Pursuit with John Walsh.
The 2019 convention will be in Chicago from August 3-7.
Visit gbta.org for more information.