GBTA Conference report

TORONTO — A jam-packed education-session agenda on the final day of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) conference addressed a number of key industry issues.

Former PM Jean Chretien addresses the crowd at the GBTA Conference.

Former PM Jean Chretien addresses the crowd at the GBTA Conference.

style=”float: none; margin: 0px;” src=”http://canadianrestaurantnews.com/media/uploads/2017/05/25/635b8b4bffe1bff1874a6778d5b7fe44.jpg”>

TORONTO — A jam-packed education-session agenda on
the final day of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) conference addressed
a number of key industry issues, including the transformation in the accommodations
sector brought on by disruption, technology and the need for personalized
experiences.

The conference, held May 23-25 in downtown
Toronto, is the leading business travel and meetings management event in
Canada.

For its part, Hilton is meeting the challenges
presented by Airbnb and other accommodations sector disruptors by launching new
brands that address the varying needs of business travellers, said Vito
Curalli, executive director of sales at Hilton, who was one of three panelists providing
insights for the Shift in Accommodations session.

In a hotel industry that is becoming
increasingly consolidated, Hilton prefers to follow a path of “organic growth”
among its 14 brands. That growth includes dual-branded combo properties, which
are a response to business travellers’ preference for multiple experiences,
said Curalli.

In its effort to enhance the customer experience
and create a more personalized experience, Hilton is tweaking its Hilton Honors
rewards program by, for example, enabling members to redeem accumulated points
on Amazon.

Also enhancing the customer experience is Hilton’s
rollout of digital check-in and digital keys, allowing guests to bypass the
front-desk experience, which has proven successful, said Curalli. Moreover, the
company will continue to add functions, such as ordering and tracking room
service, to guests’ digital experience. By the end of this year, half of
Hilton’s properties will feature digital check-in, with the remaining half
expected to be onboard by the end of 2018, according to Curalli.

David Holyoke, global head of business travel at
Airbnb, said the lines continue to blur between business and leisure travel,
with business travellers often adding leisure-travel days to their corporate
trips.

Airbnb is catering to business travellers by more
comprehensively curating its global inventory of 3 million properties; by
offering third-party billing and centralized billing; by offering rebates based
on volume; and by improving the on-trip experience (by, for example, providing
information on nearby dining options, gyms, meeting facilities, etc).

Steve Reynolds, founder and CEO of TRIPBAM,
which seeks out the best hotel rates for travel managers and travel agents, is
increasingly using technology and analytics to help demonstrate ROI to its
customers. Dynamic discounts (as opposed to flat rates) add value “as long as
the (cost) savings are there,” said Reynolds.

Curalli noted that dynamic pricing offers the
“path of least resistance” and helps ease the RFP process, saving customers
money.

Reynolds noted that travel managers are asking
for more rate information, and said TRIPBAM is continuing to automate the travel
procurement process from end to end.

In an earlier session, Mickey Winston, senior
director at global risk management specialist FocusPoint International, addressed
the dynamics of planning and executing an evacuation from an overseas
destination.