Key Takeaways From The Biggest-Ever GBTA Canada Conference

With Martha Chapman

The proud Skyteam, representing 19 carriers from Air France and Alitalia to Garuda and Xiamen Air

Attendees take in one of several Tech Talks

Guest speaker Calin Rovinescu, AC’s CEO

If there was one place for those who make their bread and butter from corporate travel last week, it was the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The cavernous facility was home to the 15thannual Canadian version of the Global Business Travel Association’s convention. And a whopper it was.

With over 900 attendees, multiple presentations and panel sessions and a trade show with over 80 exhibitors, it’s by far the largest show of its kind in Canada. And this year marked its largest-ever edition.

The 2019 theme was ‘Evolve’ and the gathering featured much networking and plenty of learning opportunities.  Here are some of the key takeaways:

Travel Policies Are A Living Thing: Experts suggested that corporate travel policy review should not by an annual thing. It should be a semi-annual – or even quarterly – process. Leaders can then see how their corporation’s buying powers are changing and how well travellers are complying with policy.

The Compliance Conundrum: The importance of policy compliance came up again and again at the GBTA conference. One panel member stated her company had travellers in Fort McMurray at the time of the fires. But several had “gone rogue” – booked hotels not in the corporate policy – and the head office was unable to quickly ascertain if they were safe. It’s key to success, and to negotiated commitments, that travellers follow policy on air, hotels and even rental cars.

Critical Communication: Corporate travel policy is so important to communicate that some companies invent a brand name for theirs, create podcasts and so on. It’s all about education and changing/rewarding behaviour!

Clever Currency Credit Card: CIBC has a ‘smart’ pre-paid travel credit card which can take up to 9 currencies (“The modern version of travellers’ cheques”) to help avoid currency fluctuation surprises. Minimum commitment is $25 - -and any leftover US$, sterling, Euros, Swiss francs, Japanese yen etc. can be instantly converted back to CAD.

Rooms & Rides: Speaking of innovation, Airbnb for Work was there; as well as Uber for Business. Farewell cab receipts, adieu administration and hello monthly report from Uber. Corporates can set up automatic restrictions regarding dollar amount, location or times. And clients can painlessly switch from corporate to personal account with each ride.

If you’re in the world of business travel, the GBTA Canada Conference is one show you can’t miss. Mark your calendar for next year: May 26-28, again in Toronto. And westerners take note: the first ever Calgary show takes place October 16-17 this year.

Martha Chapman

Martha Chapman Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.



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