GBTA Europe Conference Wrap-Up: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities in Business Travel

Finally, meeting in person

This week, the GBTA Europe Conference in Berlin offered learning and knowledge-sharing opportunities for veterans and novices alike. From interactive sessions to lectures and interviews, the event searched for new approaches to the future of business travel. This industry constantly faces increasing complexity, making it harder for travel managers to deliver on core objectives such as satisfaction, traveler safety, and impact on company goals.

Above all this, the GBTA Europe Conference celebrated the ability to meet again in person! If you were at the event, we are sure you enjoyed it as much as we did. Here our reflections on the event for those who didn’t make it.

Shockwaves felt throughout the event: The Russian war against Ukraine

Global meetings like the GBTA Europe conference usually have little room for politics. Despite this, Christoph Carnier, President of VDR, Germany’s business travel association, addressed the war head-on in his first opening words calling for an end to the Russian aggression.
A war playing out in Europe – now in the 21st century – starkly contrasts what business travel is trying to achieve. Indeed, it is managed with business interests in mind. Still, at the very heart, the identity of this industry is about breaking down borders and barriers and bringing people together for cooperation and mutual benefit.

Duty of care in time of disruption

With the backdrop of the Russian war against Ukraine, the duty of care, the imperative for corporate travel managers to know the whereabouts of all their travelers at any given moment, is getting once more unexpected urgency. For the months and years of the COVID pandemic, “duty of care” was challenging. Uncertainties made it hard to maneuver constantly changing travel restrictions and employees stranded abroad. In the face of war, it is about ensuring that all employees are quickly out of harm’s way.

But even with the best systems, internal communication, and travel management companies in place, the whereabouts of some employees may be in a grey area. How come? Think of travelers booking flights using credits or vouchers received after a cancellation. Such a direct booking by travelers might be non-compliant to travel policies. Still, more critical such flights might go untracked and without visibility for the travel manager to know the travelers’ whereabouts.

At Oversee, we help our customers tackle travel disruption with a dedicated solution. Our “Disruption Insights” includes insights on voucher expirations, ticket disruptions, refundable unused tickets, and AIRLINE DIRECT EXCHANGES (ADE). The ADE module identifies tickets suspected of being exchanged directly with airlines. This real-time list gives travel managers the visibility needed to quickly evaluate the situation and find travelers in danger zones. Feel free to contact us to learn more about how we can help you stay on top of travel disruptions.

Sustainability in corporate travel

From Mike Berners-Lee’s keynote to several breakout sessions, sustainability was one of the core issues discussed during the GBTA Europe Conference. There is a lot of confusion about how to reduce the business travel industry’s environmental impact. New company policies and corporate net-zero targets paired with a heightened awareness of employees need to be translated into a new way of business travel. The general take was that travel managers have little chance of doing a good job without standardization and emission data they can trust and easily access.

Talking sustainability in business travel, let’s address the elephant in the room: air travel. Numbers you may find may slightly differ, but scientific studies estimate that aviation contributes a net 3.5% of human-induced climate impact. Change needs to come.

We need action now

Mike Berners-Lee, professor at Lancaster University, acclaimed author of books, and a leading expert in carbon footprinting for enterprises, acknowledged that he wouldn’t have seen himself being invited to a business travel event only a few years back. But all signs point to higher awareness, and, according to Mike, the industry is more serious than ever about the issue. And rightly so, as we are at a critical moment in human history. We will need actions now to preserve the world for the next generations. “Make travel count by acknowledging its impact and start decarbonizing the business travel sector.” Don’t aim for a perfect emissions calculation but start tracking and comparing trusted data.

Make each travel count

From a business and sustainability point of view, the WHY of business travel is of the highest importance. As mentioned in many sessions at the GBTA Europe conference, the road to recovery should start with ensuring that travel is strategically aligned with business goals. Travel enables meetings, whether with customers, prospects, or team members. Stakeholders and travelers being mindful and strategic about their meetings can help ensure that enterprises run a purposeful travel program.

GBTA's new Airline RFP Toolkit with improved sustainability questions

Seeking to reach their CO2 emission reduction targets, travel managers are now assessing and negotiating with air travel suppliers. GBTA, known for its extensive resource library, published the latest version of the Airline RFP Toolkit, which now has an extended sustainability section! Together with an evaluation matrix, the toolkit helps travel managers to make better decisions and build an action plan for their companies. At the event, GBTA encouraged attendees to start using the toolkit and asked for feedback for another fine-tuning to make sure the industry is using a common language.

Together again - Finally!

One-on-one meetings, dinners, and parties to meet old and new friends and exchange thoughts with peers are part of the conference’s DNA.

Oversee, together with BCD travel and Enterprise National, celebrated the industry\’s reunion at GBTA Europe by hosting a dinner in the elegant atmosphere of the Privee in the Estrel. After the opening gala, the intimate and quiet setting gave room to exchange thoughts and truly reconnect. We are grateful for the good talks we had. We want to thank our guests for taking the time, and kudos to our co-hosts for the perfect organization.

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