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Going Back To America – GBTA Convention 2022

Blog by John Hobbs-Hurrell, Head of The Advantage Global Network

The theme of this year’s GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) Convention was (RE) Connect, (RE) Imagine & (RE) Create. This really resonated with me not only on a professional level, but also personally too. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate strapline to (RE) introduce the convention and welcome back, buyers, suppliers and travel management companies to the beautiful city of San Diego.

My last visit to America was to attend GBTA in 2019, so ‘Going Back To America’ for me was a chance to reconnect with a country that is so important for our industry, it still maintains an influence over other global markets and it is only right that Advantage should be attending such an event. Like 94% of business travellers, that the Egencia survey revealed this week, I am happy to be travelling again. If you haven’t seen my short video, please click here.

The convention format centres around 3 key components, Education, Expo and Networking. Historically around 8,000 delegates attend, this year there was around 5,000, not an insignificant number.  We believe the convention offers exceptional value to Advantage and in turn our members, the ROI is around expanding knowledge and brand promotion.

(RE)connecting with Global Network TMCs was a huge positive, it provided the opportunity to find out more about their local markets, client sentiment and what business looks heading into 2023. A significant amount of time has elapsed since I last conducted in person meetings with my contacts and we all agreed that meeting face to face is hugely beneficial. They all had different reasons for attending GBTA, for some it was mainly client related, the convention attracts a significant number of buyers. Others wanted to meet with suppliers and join some of the education sessions.

The opportunity to meet with some of our Global Accommodation Partners, especially the senior leadership teams of the larger brands was significant. Whilst there is an awareness of Advantage, being in front of them strengthened the relationship and we shared ideas on how we can gain better attachment rates in the global accommodation programme. All suppliers value the opportunity to promote their brands and what they offer the end user the traveller, Advantage will continue to be the conduit to the membership and we agreed that we need to get creative heading into 2023. Please look out for some of the new initiatives and incentives we have put in place for the remainder of 2022.

Going Green

Sustainability was a key component of the convention; the organisers went to great lengths to provide educational sessions on the subject and injected some key elements into the overall programme.

This was done by…

  • eliminating linens from sessions that didn’t have food and beverage
  • offering a plant-based lunch on the Monday
  • offering shuttles to and from the convention (number based on every 100 attendees who took the shuttle)
  • launching digital business cards rather than printed ones
  • eliminating 14,600sq yards of aisle carpet
  • offering compostable cups and reusable bottles instead of single use plastic

This just goes to prove that making even the smallest of changes can have a huge impact on the world around us.

Recovery in Global Business Travel Continues

In July GBTA surveyed around 450 frequent business travellers and executive travel budget decision makers. Overall sentiment towards travel is positive, with Covid concerns now taking a backseat to the current geo -political issues and economic pressures.

In all, global business travel spending is expected to gain 33.8% in 2022, however, differences are anticipated across the world’s top business travel markets. The timing and pace of the recovery will continue to vary significantly from one region of the world to the next, as evidenced in 2021.

  • North America led the recovery in 2021 – driven largely by rapidly returning domestic travel. Western Europe was the one region to witness spending declines last year as Covid-19 impacted its domestic and regional business travel market. Both regions are expected to experience the sharpest recoveries with compound annual growth increases of 23.4% (to $363.7 billion) and 16.9% (to $323.9 billion), respectively by 2026.
  • Asia Pacific helped lead the industry in terms of recovery of spend in 2021– particularly in China. This reversed in 2022, as China’s Zero-Covid policy led to wide-scale lockdowns and other countries in the region only slowly opened upFor 2022, a solid increase of 16.5% (or $407.1 billion) in spending is expected in APAC (held back by China at 5.6%, or $286.9 billion), with the region recovering to 66% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022.
  • Business travel spending in Latin America grew modestly in 2021 as the vaccination effort got off to a slower start. While there may be challenges in this region over the next few years, 55% growth in spend in Latin America is forecast for this year as business travel recovers to 83% of pre-pandemic
Key takeaways from GBTA*
  • “Demand for business travel and meetings is back with a vengeance, of that there is absolutely no doubt,” – Patrick Andersen, CWT’s Chief Executive Officer.
  • “Travel less but travel better”.  Fewer, but longer and more productive trips, with a clear purpose
  • Travel policies and behaviours are changing. TMC can and should be instrumental in driving these changes, starting with helping customers evolve new policies and controls to guide travellers towards more productive, sustainable, and secure travel.
  • The average spend per trip is increasing, with more ancillaries included there’s a chance for TMCs to capitalise on income and to provide total trip management
  • Air fares are predicted to rise by 8.4%, hotel rates by 8.2%, and car rental charges by 6.8% in 2023. However, business traveller will probably be happy to spend more following two years of minimal to no expenditure
  • Total spending on global business travel reached $697 Billion in 2021, 5.5% up on 2020.
  • When compared to pre pandemic, 2019 saw $1.4 Trillion spent on corporate travel
  • Deteriorating Economic conditions have slowed global recovery and business travel spend not likely to recover to pre-pandemic volumes until 2025
  • Global spending is not expected to exceed 2019 levels until midway through 2026, adding an additional 18 months on previous predictions.

In summary, attending GBTA for Advantage was a significant step forward in the recovery of our sector. It further demonstrated that so much more is achieved with in-person meetings, helping to cement existing relationships, but creating new ones. The educational sessions help us keep pace with what is happening in the industry, but also validates some of the information we gather from our global network on a weekly and monthly basis.

Finally, I couldn’t help but reference the host city San Diego, it is a great city in which to host a convention. If you haven’t been please add it to your list of US places to visit, you will not be disappointed!

GBTA Convention will return in August 2023, host city will be Dallas and Advantage will certainly be Going Back To America!


*Some information and stats taken from the 2023 Global Business Travel Forecast.