The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and German business travel buyer association VDR – wrapped up their fifth successful joint conference in Europe this week with record-breaking attendance. The event brought together nearly 1,100 attendees from 30+ countries for unparalleled networking, more education than ever before and top-notch speakers.
Centre Stage highlighted a few thought-provoking industry panels. Accommodation Panel – The Tech Effect featured HRS Group's Martin Biermann, Booking.com's Mark van der Linden, Acomodeo's Eric-jan Krausch, and citizenM hotel's Lennert de Jong as they discussed the need for automation and digitization and detailed their efforts to ensure GDPR-compliance when handling massive amounts of customer information. They concluded that complexity is increasing in the hotel market due to a fragmented marketplace in addition to the involvement of various players and legacy systems.
Also on Centre Stage, C-level executives from Finnair, Lufthansa Group and Virgin Atlantic discussed NDC and the potential impact a no-deal Brexit will have on aviation and their day-to-day operations. Shai Weiss, Juha Jarvinen and Heike Birlenbach all agreed that industry consolidation ultimately benefits consumers. They also voiced frustrations over limited airport infrastructure and expressed concerns that the growth rate is not enough to cope with a doubling of global air passengers in 2036.
Following GBTA's acquisition of WINiT in August, the conference debuted WINiT by GBTA content and programming for the first time, including a Centre Stage session where senior leaders in business travel provided their perspectives on the challenges facing women in our industry. During Successful Women Leading in Business Travel, panelists Heike Birlenbach of Lufthansa, Emma Wilson of Sabre and Daniela Schade of AccorHotels shared advice for women in the industry and discussed how their companies work to fight unconscious biases and give women a platform.
GBTA Executive Director & COO Michael W. McCormick hosted industry leader Konstantin Sixt at Centre Stage for a one-on-one interview. The two chatted about ground transportation trends including how connected cars and true end-to-end mobility will change the marketplace in the future. A panel of senior buyers also provided their take on the latest trends, innovations, opportunities and challenges facing business travel. The conference also featured fantastic keynote speakers including best-selling author Peter Fisk and mentalist David Meade.
With a new, dynamic 30-minute education session format, this year's program offered business travel professionals more learning opportunities than ever before. Attendees were treated to high-level education sessions covering everything from creating a sustainable travel program to the impact of blockchain technology on managed travel. The Expo featured more than 50 exhibitors and a dozen suppliers made breaking news announcements as part of our Media Reception. Also for the first time, our all-new Knowledge Bazaar featured 120 unique topics, allowing travel buyers to partake in different sessions with the topic of their choosing. The Bazaar included a variety of topics and trends ranging from the impact of NDC on corporate travel programs to building a travel program that people will actually read. Additionally, the Conference debuted a new format for this year's Big Idea session, which involved an interactive workshop including all attendees focused on the industry's most pressing issues.
Next year's conference will take place in Munich, 19-21 November 2019.
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