Cities Want to Leverage Conventions Better to Drive Growth — Meetings Innovation Report

Hustle Con 2017

Hustle Con 2017 in Oakland, California was developed to provide an innovation event for non-tech startup founders. Hustle Con 2017

Skift Take: There’s a growing conversation in the U.S. about how city governments and convention bureaus can better pool their resources to promote their local startup and research communities to convention organizers.

— Greg Oates

The Future of Meetings & Events

I’ve been speaking with a wide range of U.S. mayors, economic development executives, and convention bureau leaders this year about how cities are leveraging their innovation economies to secure more conventions in their high-priority sectors. And, how convention organizers can tap that knowledge base to drive higher business outcomes for their programs aligned with those sectors.

This week’s lead story shares data from our recent report, produced in collaboration with Meetings Mean Business: “Defining Conventions as Urban Innovation and Economic Accelerators.” There is a surprising lack of research evaluating how conventions drive long-term economic growth beyond the short-term delegate spend. So, we surveyed a selection of convention bureau executives about what they feel are the most significant legacy economic drivers that conventions deliver, along with what they see as the biggest obstacles to evaluating those drivers.

Read the full story below, and join me tomorrow at 2 p.m. EST for our webinar dissecting the takeaways from our report.

— Greg Oates

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The Big Picture

Cities Lack Research to Determine the Long-Term Economic Impacts of Conventions: City governments and convention bureaus would love to better understand the long-term economic impacts that conventions in advanced industries deliver to their cities, but there are a lot of challenges trying to establish metrics and tracking methodologies to accomplish that. Read more at Skift

U.S. Business Travelers More Likely to Drive Than Fly to Meetings: It can be easy to forget that most U.S. business travelers aren’t road-warriors hitting multiple cities in a week. Sometimes we fixate too much on those who travel the most instead of the majority, who spend a day or two visiting clients or potential customers. Read more at Skift

Conference & Incentive Travel Launches ‘State of the Industry’ Report: In this annual survey, more than 150 corporate and agency event planners share their perspectives on business growth, mobile apps, event ROI, incentive travel, and the most innovative event planning organizations. Read more at Conference & Incentive Travel

Meetings Mean Business Relaunches ‘Worth Meeting About’ Campaign: U.S. Travel’s meetings advocacy group, Meetings Mean Business, is bringing back its “Worth Meeting About” promotional campaign to emphasize that every great innovation in history began with a face-to-face meeting. Read more at Meetings & Conventions

Adjusting Perspectives Regarding Disruptions in Meetings and Incentives: Almost 60 percent of planners have experienced some form of disruption in their events, estimating that nearly a quarter of their events have been affected in some way. The IRF 2016 Event Disruption Study explores the frequency, causes, sources, and impact of recent disruptions in meetings and incentive travel. Read More at Incentive Research Foundation

GBTA Gives Update on Business Travel Spending: The GBTA report states that much of business travel’s contribution to the economy accrues directly to industries that serve business travelers, but their supply chain beneficiaries received an additional indirect contribution of $132 billion. Read more at Meetings Today

Next Generation Meetings

The Cities Summit at SXSW — A Fresh Look at the Future of Cities: The new Cities Summit at SXSW 2018 in Austin is designed to bridge the dialogue between city leaders and decision makers with SXSW communities — digital creatives, entrepreneurs, designers, artists and others — for a fresh look at how we shape our cities, and how they shape us. Read more at SXSW

Who Is Winning During Comic-Con: Airbnb or Hotels? Just as hotels are capitalizing on the 130,000 comic book fans, superhero junkies, and Game of Thrones zealots flooding the city, so too are home-sharing hosts. According to this post, many hosts are raising their customary rates above what one would expect during an otherwise busy July weekend in San Diego. Read more at The San Diego Union Tribune

Augmented World Expo Sets the Example for What an Augmented Reality Conference Should Be: AWE has its roots in what originally amounted to a large-scale augmented reality DIY meetup group. Now that the technology is finally catching up to the imaginations of the developers, the conference is gaining increasing traction. Read more at Next Reality

West Coast Entrepreneurs Surprised, Impressed by Albuquerque: The City of Albuquerque’s sponsorship of Hustle Con in Oakland, the nation’s biggest conference for non-tech startup founders, made considerable strides in differentiating the city from its competitors in the Southwest region last month. Read more at Innovation Central ABQ

The Alexa Tech Conference Is Coming to Chattanooga: Chattanooga’s 10-gig internet service and expanding Innovation District helped lure Amazon’s Alexa event, showcasing the future of artificial intelligence-powered voice tech. Read more at Nooga.com

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The Skift Meetings Innovation Report is curated by Skift editor Greg Oates [go@skift.com]. The newsletter is emailed every Wednesday.

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Priceline CEO: Hotels Secretly Love Us Despite Accusations of Monopoly

Bloomberg

CEO Glenn Fogel says he’s not worried about hotel lobby group claims that the fees of online travel agencies are excessive relative to the value provided. He spoke with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang outside of the Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2017 conference in Aspen, Colorado. Bloomberg

Skift Take: Priceline CEO Glenn Fogel says he wants travelers to think of Booking.com’s name first when they start thinking about reserving homes and apartments for rental. He says a marketing effort is in the works to achieve that.

— Sean O’Neill

Priceline Group expects to be a fast-growing company over the next few years, but that it is despite some hotel lobbying efforts which CEO Glenn Fogel characterized as a sideshow.

Interviewed on Bloomberg TV outside of the Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2017 conference in Aspen, Colorado, which was broadcast Wednesday, Fogel draws a distinction between a hotel lobbying group and hotels themselves, which he implied liked Priceline Group practices just as they are.

Fogel says, “I’ve read some very nice things from some of the CEOs of hotel groups saying, ‘I’m not exactly sure where [the charges of oligopoly] came from.’”

The chief executive does not elaborate on where he read these written comments.

Fogel also echoes an argument he made during his company’s most recent earnings call that his portfolio of companies collectively only offer to consumers a single-digit percentage of the world’s hotels and vacation rentals. (In the past, Priceline and its competitor Expedia Inc. have each said they only have about 5 percent of the world’s travel inventory on their platforms.)

By that logic, it’s impossible that Priceline Group could be a monopoly, he says.

“People who say we have some sort of large market share should look at the statistics,” he adds.

His remarks come in the wake of news in May that the American Hotel & Lodging Association, a trade lobby that counts Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt, and Marriott International, as members, plans to step up a campaign to warn regulators and elected officials of so-called monopolistic tendencies by online travel agencies.

Priceline Group has the largest revenue and market capitalization of the online travel groups worldwide, so it potentially could be affected the most by such a campaign.

Not afraid of Airbnb competition

In other matters, Fogel said that he’s always on the alert for new competitors to possibly steal his company’s market share. He says Priceline Group has experience at surprising other companies and stealing market share, such as with the rise of Booking.com’s success.

“We are used to coming out and undercutting bigger people, so I am aware that players much smaller than us who are coming up quickly. We watch what they’re doing.”

Fogel ignores talk about reports that Airbnb is building a flight search engine, focusing instead on noting that his company is managing the Airbnb threat by building out its rentals and vacation home product.

“I believe that the ability to see homes, apartments, and villas in the same search results as hotels is powerful,” Fogel says, noting that 100 percent of the company’s more than 700,000 listings are “instantly bookable,” something that rival online travel players can’t claim yet.

Fogel won’t reveal the type of marketing campaign he plans. But he says he wants travelers — especially Americans — to think of Booking.com’s name first when they start thinking about booking homes and apartments for rental. He says a marketing effort is in the works to achieve that.

In response to a question about Google possibly having to make changes to its search results in Europe in response to concerns by European watchdogs. Fogel says he isn’t worried about the changes. He compared Priceline Group to being like “a wingman for a pilot,” with Google being the pilot. He says his company has hundreds of engineers that can quickly adapt to any changes Google makes.

Fogel adds, “If you’re a small player, you don’t have the luxury of having those technical people [to adapt to changes by Google].”

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Chefs+Tech: Chipotle Haunted by News of Store Closure Due to Illness

Bloomberg

The isolated store closure occurred in northern Virginia earlier this week. Bloomberg

Skift Take: The illness reports, consistent with symptoms of norovirus, come from one Chipotle location that has since reopened. But any time this happens, however small, the news will grab headlines. Chipotle will likely be haunted by its past as long as it’s around.

— Kristen Hawley

chefslogo_use-for-socialEditor’s Note: In September we announced that Skift was expanding into food and drink with the addition of the Chefs+Tech newsletter. 

We see this as a natural expansion of the Skift umbrella, bringing the big-picture view on the future of dining out, being fanatically focused on the guest experience, and at the intersection of marketing and tech.

Bonus: We now publish C+T twice weekly.

Reports of Illness Briefly Close One Chipotle Restaurant

Q: What happens when a major restaurant chain experiences an unfortunate foodborne illness outbreak? A: It will spend the rest of its years in business recovering from the negative press. I’m referring, of course, to Chipotle, whose stock tanked this week after recent news of a Washington, D.C.-area location’s closure after several people reported getting sick after eating there. According to Jim Marsden, Chipotle’s executive director of food safety, reported symptoms are consistent with norovirus, which is not a foodborne illness and does not come from food.

Still, it seems people are on high alert after the 2015 salmonella and E. coli outbreaks tied to Chipotle, and for all of the branding work, education, and public-facing initiatives the company takes on, even the smallest report of illness potentially tied to the restaurant can turn stomachs of customers and investors. The store reopened yesterday after a “complete sanitation,” according to Marsden.

Credit Card Companies Advocate for Cashless Restaurants

Remember the last time you unexpectedly found yourself in a cash-only bar or restaurant? It doesn’t just feel weird, it actually feels like an inconvenience. Operating a cashless business is still novel enough to be a marketing point — i.e., “We’re tech savvy and streamlined!” — and now the country’s biggest credit card companies are upping the ante as they see a cashless future, and more money, from restaurants that stop accepting physical money. Visa recently announced it will award 50 restaurants $10,000 each toward marketing efforts to stop accepting cash.

The incentive to go cashless is more than just marketing. Dealing with cash takes time and effort — staff have to go to the bank to make deposits, and time spent on counting and handling cash adds up. But it’s not like accepting credit cards is free either, since the credit card company takes a cut from each sale. Still, in a world where many people are going cashless anyway, where pay-with-your-phone is a lot easier than even pulling out a physical credit card, this seems to be where the industry is heading.

Top Chef Stephanie Izard Used to Work at Olive Garden

Even the best chefs in the world start somewhere, and for Chicago’s Stephanie Izard, Top Chef champion and chef/owner of some of the city’s hottest restaurants, that somewhere was an Olive Garden in Arizona. She tells Bloomberg Pursuits that she worked the lunch shift at the restaurant, though “no one eats at Olive Garden for lunch when it’s 115 degrees outside,” so her shift was usually cut short. She did proudly share that she can still sing the birthday song — and Olive Garden shared its pride on Twitter.

In other fun Olive Garden news, there’s apparently a thread of thousands of commenters defending their decision to eat at the Olive Garden that’s situated at the north end of Times Square. That restaurant has been the subject of ridicule for decades, but it’s still there and always packed, so who has the last laugh?

Eater Calls All-Day Dining the Year’s Biggest Trend

…but it’s a smart business decision, too. I never knew how much I needed all-day dining options until I became a parent late last year. Instead of hanging on my favorite counter stool for hours at night, I sidle up to small tables with enough space to fit my baby’s stroller. The Eater piece features some of the country’s new and notable all-day spots, noting that all-day full-service restaurants can take advantage of the popularity of fast-casual dining, but also that it helps restaurants maximize profits, which is probably a huge reason some restaurants make the decision to serve all day.

You can’t serve food all day without customers, though, and as the piece notes, restaurants offering this are mainly found in larger cities. Flexible work schedules, work-from-home arrangements, and the freelance economy mean more people are interested in finding pleasant workspaces to spend their time. It also makes sense to maximize the amount of hours a restaurant is making money — the cost of the space is likely the same whether it opens at 5 p.m. or 8 a.m.

The possibilities for space usage and new concepts is exciting. I especially enjoy all-day restaurants that have distinctly different feelings during different day parts — Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco, for example, offers a spectacular breakfast and coffee menu, several amazing lunch options, and at dinner time becomes a hip, date-night-worthy destination with a killer wine list. It’s fun, and I’m fiercely loyal to all three meals at the restaurant. That said, it could just be a trend, as Eater calls it, which means the market could soon be saturated with a spate of openings. Until then, here’s to enjoying inventive concepts and menu items at these new spaces.

Digestifs

  • Pizza Hut will hire 14,000 new drivers this year — Bloomberg
  • Former “gypsy brewers” are opening their own beer-producing spaces — NYTimes Food
  • Vegan vending machines coming to San Francisco. Of course they are — Eater SF

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The Summer Issue of VRM Intel Magazine is Headed Your Way

The Summer Issue of VRM Intel Magazine is out the door and headed your way. But if you’re like us and can’t wait, here is the digital version. In this issue, we interviewed the founders at Vacasa and Stay Alfred to take a deeper look at their business models. We also wanted to know what […]

The post The Summer Issue of VRM Intel Magazine is Headed Your Way appeared first on VRM Intel.

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Supreme Court Protects Grandparents From Trump Travel Ban

J. Scott Applewhite  / Associated Press

The Supreme Court Building is seen in Washington in this photo from March. The Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to more strictly enforce its ban on refugees, at least until a federal appeals court weighs in. But justices are leaving in place a lower court order that makes it easier for travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to enter the U.S.
J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Skift Take: The U.S. Supreme Court says what families have been arguing for weeks: Grandparents and grandchildren of those already in the country should be considered “close relatives” and not kept out under the travel ban. Justices will allow the Trump administration to keep restrictions on refugees.

— Hannah Sampson

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Donald Trump on his embattled travel ban Wednesday, rejecting his bid to bar entry by some people with family members already in the country.

The three-sentence order by the justices — who last month let the president start restricting entry by people from six mostly Muslim countries — means the government must accept people with grandparents, cousins and other relatives in the U.S.

The order gave Trump a partial win on a separate issue, temporarily blocking a lower court ruling that would have opened the way for potentially thousands of refugees to enter the country in the coming months. That portion of the Supreme Court order applies while the administration appeals on that issue to a federal appellate court in San Francisco.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented from part of Wednesday’s order, saying they would have let Trump also refuse entry to grandparents and other relatives while the case is on appeal.

The Supreme Court plans to hear arguments Oct. 10 on the travel ban. The latest scuffle centered on the rules that will apply in the interim.

The justices on June 26 let the government enforce a limited travel ban, saying the U.S. had to admit at least some close relatives though the court didn’t list all the relationships that qualified. The Trump administration then agreed to let people enter if they had a parent, spouse, fiance, child, sibling, son- or daughter-in-law, or a parent-in-law in the country.

Grandparents, Cousins

But the government contended it could still exclude people whose closest relatives in the U.S. are grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, or siblings-in-law.

A federal trial judge in Hawaii said the administration’s standard was too restrictive and couldn’t be squared with the Supreme Court decision. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson also said the government couldn’t exclude refugees once a resettlement agency had promised that it would provide basic services for them.

Trump asked the Supreme Court to clarify its June 26 decision, contending that Watson disobeyed it. The high court denied that request in Wednesday’s order, though it partially granted one of the administration’s backup suggestions by blocking the portion of Watson’s ruling that addressed refugees.

Trump’s March 6 executive order said the 90-day travel ban and 120-day refugee ban would give officials time to assess U.S. vetting procedures and would address an “unacceptably high” risk that terrorists could slip into the country. Lower courts had blocked the ban, saying Trump overstepped his authority and unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.

The case is Trump v. Hawaii, 16-1540.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Greg Stohr from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Cities Lack Research to Determine Long-Term Economic Impacts of Conventions

Destination DC

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser promoted her economic development goals at SXSW 2017. Destination DC

Skift Take: City governments and convention bureaus would love to better understand the long-term economic impacts that conventions in advanced industries deliver to their cities, but there are a lot of challenges trying to establish metrics and tracking methodologies to accomplish that.

— Greg Oates

Meetings and conventions pump a significant amount of direct spending into their host cities’ economies, which is typically well documented by the local convention and visitors bureau. In Nashville, for example, 42 percent of visitor spend is attributed to convention delegates paying for local hotels, restaurants, transportation, meeting facilities, etc.

However, there’s a greater economic impact derived from conventions over the long term beyond the immediate delegate expenditure — especially those in technology, creative, medical, scientific, and other advanced industries — that’s not evaluated and measured to any large degree.

For example, among the influx of business leaders arriving in town for conventions, some will potentially develop longstanding business relationships with local companies. Others will expand their operations in a city, open new facilities, and/or bring new talent and investment capital into the region that increases the local tax base.

All of those scenarios and others help drive growth across a myriad of sectors, and yet, that growth is neither being tracked nor leveraged to build upon.

Cities across the U.S. are rapidly expanding their innovation economies, where local startups are collaborating with regional academic and research institutions to develop new products and services in priority sectors ranging from life sciences to robotics to digital media services. Supporting that, conventions deliver rotating groups of thought leaders who can supplement  the pool of local resources and intelligence specific to those sectors.

Another long-range benefit: Conventions deliver positive marketing exposure that destinations receive when thousands of people descend on a city for a few days. That brand lift can help pivot a city’s reputation regionally, nationally, and internationally, which helps attract outside investment.

City and state government officials, economic development professionals, and convention bureau executives are aware of these legacy economic impacts. But they’re rarely communicated in annual visitor impact reports because they’re difficult to measure.

“There’s always been this intangible about what the leave-behind is in a city from having leaders of industry and that knowledge base come to your city,” said Gregory O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC, which oversees convention promotion and development in Washington, D.C. “So, while I think it’s been a long time coming to try to measure that effect, we can all speak to examples anecdotally.”

The lack of empirical metrics or detailed case studies showing how conventions are a catalyst for growth and innovation is a significant missed opportunity. As such, both the public and private sectors don’t have a clear idea about how long-term economic development is happening organically, based on transient traffic in high-priority sectors coming and going through the region.

In Skift’s recent research report, “Defining Conventions As Urban Innovation and Economic Accelerators,” produced in collaboration with Meeting Mean Business, numerous government and economic development officials said that the long-term economic impacts of conventions are often not even a topic of internal conversation, yet.

“It’s not something I’m aware of, but it’s certainly interesting to understand the results down the road stemming from our conventions,” said Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney. “That would be very useful, not just for the hospitality, tourism, and convention business, but all of tech, modern manufacturing, etc.”

Nikia Clarke, executive director of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, expressed similar sentiments.

“We can say what the economic impact of Comic-Con or BIO is,” she said. “However, in terms of partnering with our research institutions to actually measure the value of our conferences in the long term, that’s not something that we’ve done, either targeted or tactically. It’s funny, because my background is in research, and I’m just thinking about that puzzle. It seems like a very difficult thing to measure in a longitudinal way.”

Erik Caldwell, economic development director for the city of San Diego, added: “If somebody could figure out how to quantify that, that would be huge, because ultimately that’s the goal.”

Identifying Conventions’ Legacy Impacts

Collaborating with U.S. Travel’s Meetings Mean Business advocacy group, Skift surveyed 30 senior executives at convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) across the country to first try to identify exactly what the legacy benefits of conventions actually are.

Survey participants were first asked to rank the importance of the following long-term economic impacts based on their convention business. While “Motivate attendees to return as tourists” was the highest priority, the following most popular themes highlighted the ability of conventions to spur economic development over the long term.

For the second question, which was open-ended, the survey asked respondents to supply what they thought were the most important long-term economic impacts derived from conventions.

Another open-ended question asked CVB executives what they perceive to be the most significant obstacles impeding the evaluation of their convention lineup’s legacy impacts.

The next question asked bureaus how well they feel they’re fully sharing how conventions benefit the local community.

The last question is especially topical these days with CVBs increasingly worried about budget cuts. If bureaus had a better grasp of the full economic development benefits that conventions deliver to a city, long after the delegates returned home, would that help them shore up their funding?

Four out of five executives surveyed responded that it would, or it possibly might.

There’s a long road ahead for convention bureaus and economic development organizations to determine how conventions are driving growth in their cities. Although, it seems that they’re now at least starting to look at the subject with more emphasis.

Gary Oppedahl, director of economic development for the City of Albuquerque, said there’s a greater awareness today in New Mexico of how economic growth depends on a more intentional and strategic convergence between the city agencies overseeing meetings development and economic development.

“We’re more conscious of how important it is to match up everything happening on the entrepreneurial and business development side with how we position Albuquerque for the acquisition of more conventions,” Oppedahl said. “We see tourism, convention, and economic development as two sides of the same coin.”

This story is based on a report and research created collaboratively by Meetings Mean Business and Skift’s content studio, Skift X.

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GBTA Notebook: The Future of Corporate Travel Is Basically the Same as the Past

Skift

The 2017 GBTA Convention in Boston. Skift

Skift Take: Another year, another GBTA. It seems like corporate travel is heading in the direction of offering more options to business travelers, but progress remains slow.

— Andrew Sheivachman

Corporate travel is slow to evolve, yet the pace of change seems to have increased as travel management companies have turned to technology to solve common problems.

This week at the Global Business Travel Association Convention in Boston, customization was a major theme as the industry has focused more on appealing to the individual needs of travelers and clients rather than compelling them to work with a constrained set of tools.

Still, the structure of the industry precludes any sort of widespread transition to a more traveler-centric focus.

Here are Skift’s takeaways from the convention and meetings with the industry’s top executives.

Airbnb Going Corporate

Airbnb has been making serious progress in the corporate travel ecosystem, integrating with the systems of major travel management companies in recent years. But last week, a deal was announced to bring Airbnb listings into Concur’s online booking tool, a major step toward the corporate travel mainstream.

Concur users who want to book an Airbnb stay will finalize the transaction on Airbnb.com using the site’s interface, according to David Holyoke, global head of business travel for Airbnb. This way, travelers get a taste of Airbnb’s user experience while being able to shop around between different hotels and Airbnb listings on their corporate booking tool.

This could pave the way for similar deals with the other major travel management companies, giving Airbnb listings more prominence among hotels.

The bigger issue, of course, is simply that most travel policies don’t allow travelers to stay in an Airbnb, for a variety of reasons including the duty to make sure traveling employees are safe. Holyoke said his message to potential partners is simple: Just try us.

Acceptance has been slow, and Airbnb is working on new business travel products to address pain points that business travelers may feel staying in a shared home instead of a hotel. These could include add-ons like access to meeting spaces or gym facilities.

Skift expects to see new ancillary products emerge soon as a part of Airbnb’s big corporate travel push, though none have been officially announced. How business travel ready are the company’s “Business Travel Ready” listings if they don’t include many elements that travelers consider a bare minimum for their hotel experience?

Expenses, Expenses, Expenses

There’s been a lot of news in recent months from the corporate expenses space, from the roll up of many expense companies including Certify to major travel management companies announcing integration with a variety of expense tools.

As one executive told me in passing: “The opportunity is there because many see Concur potentially withering on the vine after its acquisition by SAP.” This seems unlikely, but there is definitely room in the expense place for a few medium-size players to emerge.

But on a fundamental level, for travel managers and travelers themselves, competition in the space is good. Travelers can seamlessly expense their trips, and managers have better insights into spending.

Chrome River CEO Alan Rich said the race is on to create more actionable insights based on traveler spending behavior, which will benefit the industry as a whole going forward since companies can choose the right expense solution for their needs instead of whatever is automatically baked into their corporate booking tool.

Big TMCs Offer Variety

Giving travelers more choice, and control, was the theme this year from the major travel management companies.

Improvements to mobile tools for travelers and hotel sourcing dominated offerings; BCD Travel CEO John Snyder showed off the company’s improved hotel sourcing technology and mobile app for travelers, while Egencia CEO Rob Greyber discussed the company’s strategy of iterating improvements surrounding traveler pain points, like expensing their trip spending.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel CEO Kurt Ekert said the company is investing heavily in data science, with around 90 people currently working on crunching data to improve personalization and prediction.

It seems that next-generation personalization surrounding traveler preferences and targeted offerings isn’t here yet. But positive steps are taking place to empower travel managers and give travelers a wider variety of choices.

Disruptive Startups Gain Ground

As a startup, breaking into the corporate travel ecosystem is a big challenge. With many established, entrenched players, getting a foothold is hard.

Established companies like TRIPBAM and Yapta, however, are chugging along and introducing new capabilities to solve problems in hotel and air rebooking through automation and industry partnerships.

New players like Freebird, as well, are cultivating trials with big travel management companies to try out their air rebooking product.

There is a relatively small pocket of true innovation in the corporate travel space, but it’s growing in stature.

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Why Streamlined Expense Management is the First Step to Successful Business Travel

Skift Take: Expense management is often one of the most frustrating parts of the business travel journey. However, user-friendly mobile tools and the ability to integrate a customized solution can make the process a lot smoother.

— Dawn Rzeznikiewicz

Managing expenses is often one part of business travel that travelers dread having to deal with. For the employee, tracking receipts, making sure purchases are aligned with travel policies, and filing reports can be a manually intensive, time consuming process. For travel managers, dealing with disorganized reporting can make the experience just as aggravating.

When the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) asked travelers to name the most frustrating part of the travel process, expense reporting came in as the third-most common annoyance, after lack of reliable Wi-Fi and traveling from one place to another.

Beyond the impact on traveler satisfaction, unwieldy expense reporting also has a major effect on productivity and the bottom line. According to a survey of business professionals in the U.S. and UK conducted KDS, while 45 percent of respondents utilize an automated expense management tool to submit their expense reports, almost as many—41 percent—still submit their expenses manually via spreadsheet. Of those respondents who do submit their expenses manually, nearly half say that this process accounts for between 30 minutes to one hour to complete—and most of them are submitting during working hours.

Much of the frustration with expense management comes down to the fact that traditionally, travel and expense management platforms have offered a one-size-fits-all solution to book travel and process expenses. However, with so many different companies having so many different needs, a singular approach to travel and expense management is often no longer necessary or as efficient as a more customized solution might be.

The ability to track and manage expenses via mobile has helped improve the process. But while mobile expense management has become much more common and user-friendly in recent years, it’s still not as popular as it should be, given how ubiquitous smartphone usage is among today’s workforce. In a survey from ACTE Global and American Express Global Business Travel, less than half of travel managers said they’ve introduced travel and expense apps to their travelers. Even still, those that have introduced preferred platforms are often disappointed by the user experiences, lack of flexibility and out-of-date technologies they offer.

As most corporate travel managers know, expense management impacts all touchpoints of the traveler journey. The more streamlined the expense process for travelers, the easier it is to encourage traveler compliance, reduce costs, mitigate safety risks, gain deeper insight into traveler spending, and improve the overall trip experience for their travelers.

Fortunately, if mobile tools that offer rich user experiences and allow for automation, flexibility and customization are in place and if companies and their travelers have the freedom to choose an expense platform that matches their individual needs, dealing with the expense portion of a business trip can be a seamless, pain-free process.

The Sabre Traveler Experience Solution provides a seamless mobile experience from pre-trip to expense reporting. The solution integrates multiple products into one mobile experience to drive savings, compliance, safety, and traveler satisfaction, and integrates booking, itinerary and messaging, virtual payments, expense reporting, and travel risk management. Sabre believes better business starts with better business travel.

This content was created collaboratively by Sabre and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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Wizz Air Is Cutting Carry-On Bag Fees as Profits Soar

Wizz Air

Europe’s Wizz Air Holdings Plc plans to stop charging customers for carry-on luggage. A flight attendant is pictured here. Wizz Air

Skift Take: It’s refreshing to see an airline respond to customer feedback, especially where fees are concerned. But if economic conditions sour, the carrier can always bring back the charges.

— Hannah Sampson

Wizz Air Holdings Plc, Eastern Europe’s biggest discount airline, plans to stop charging customers for carry-on luggage, bringing it into line with rivals Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc as low fuel prices boost earnings.

While Wizz had allowed customers to bring aboard small items and laptop bags for free, it imposed a fee of between 10 and 35 euros ($11.50-$50) for standard-sized cabin luggage, depending on the time booked. Those levies will be dropped from Oct. 29, allowing free carriage of bags up to 50 percent bigger, it said Wednesday.

“We are listening to our customers,” Chief Executive Officer Jozsef Varadi told Bloomberg TV. “Charging for cabin bags was one of the critiques we have been getting. It will post some operational challenges obviously, but I think the industry has figured it out. All in all, I don’t think we will see significant distress as a result of this change.”

Ryanair, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, already allows passengers to carry two bags into its cabins, one weighing up to 10 kilograms and the other being a small personal bag or handbag. EasyJet, the No. 2, permits one free item that must fit in an overhead locker, with Plus card, flexi-fare and extra-legroom customers permitted a second.

Wizz is easing baggage charges after net income jumped 50 percent in the first quarter, prompting the Budapest-based carrier to predict that full-year earnings will be close to the top of a 250 million euro to 270 million euro range. The company has also introduced a priority-boarding option, something that should help make up for any shortfall in baggage revenue.

“The first quarter came in above expectation, and we are seeing robust bookings going into the summer,” Varadi said. “It looks like the industry has moved into a more favorable macroeconomic environment because of the lower fuel price, and I think that is going to continue.”

Wizz plans to lift capacity by 23 percent this fiscal year. The U.K.’s vote to quit the European Union has so far weighed on business only through the depreciation of the pound, with underlying demand “intact,” said Varadi, who appointed Air New Zealand’s strategy officer Stephen Jones as deputy CEO and promoted financial planning head Iain Wetherall to chief financial officer

Shares of London-listed Wizz traded 0.7 percent lower at 2,569 pence as of 10:23 a.m. in the U.K.. The stock has advanced 43 percent this year, valuing the company at 2.63 billion pounds ($3.4 billion).

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

 

This article was written by Mark Barton and Richard Weiss from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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U.S. Destinations Aren’t Seeing The Trump Slump Many Had Feared

Associated Press

International visitation to the U.S. doesn’t seem to be suffering this year, at least not because of President Donald Trump. Pictured are tourists visiting the National September 11 Museum in New York City. Associated Press

Skift Take: Many international travelers likely care more about how far their money goes than who occupies the White House. But a continued steady stream of visitors will depend on the rigidity of President Trump’s future policies.

— Dan Peltier

Last winter, the U.S. tourism industry fretted that Trump administration policies might lead to a “Trump slump” in travel.

But those fears may have been premature. International arrivals and travel-related spending are up in 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

There might even be a “Trump bump,” says Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, a nonprofit representing the travel industry.

A few months ago, Dow and others warned that President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and a ban on travel from a handful of mostly Muslim countries could send an anti-tourism message.

But “impending doom hasn’t manifested itself,” Dow said in an interview. “Right now we cannot identify a loss. It’s contrary to everything we’ve heard, but travel is in slightly better shape than it was a year ago. Everyone wants me to tell the story of the sky is falling, but for the travel industry, the sky is not falling.”

Latest numbers from the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Trends Index showed 6.6 percent growth in international travel to the U.S. in April and 5 percent growth in May compared with the same months last year. The Travel Trends Index uses hotel, airline and U.S. government data.

Individual sectors have good news, too. Hotel occupancy for the first five months of 2017 was “higher than it has ever been before,” said Jan Freitag, senior vice president with STR, which tracks hotel industry data. American Express Meetings & Events has “not seen a slowdown in either domestic U.S. meetings or international meetings from the U.S. in the past six months,” according to senior vice president Issa Jouaneh. Even New York’s National September 11 Memorial and Museum has more international visitors: 554,381 at the museum Jan. 1-July 11, up from 517,539 the same period last year.

American Express Meetings & Events has “not seen a slowdown in either domestic U.S. meetings or international meetings from the U.S. in the past six months,” according to senior vice president Issa Jouaneh. Even New York’s National September 11 Memorial and Museum has more international visitors: 554,381 at the museum Jan. 1-July 11, up from 517,539 the same period last year.

Florida’s Orlando International Airport, a gateway for theme park visitors, reported growth for domestic and international passengers year to date, though Visit Orlando CEO George Aguel said it was “still premature to determine a specific impact” from Trump administration policies.

International trips are often planned months in advance, so decisions made this year about travel may not be evident yet.

“For us, we already planned before the election,” said Alban Michel, waiting with a group of Swiss tourists to see One World Trade’s observatory in New York on Monday.

Companies that track online behavior say searches for U.S. travel are down. Yet tour companies that bring foreigners here are “not only holding year over year, but in many cases they’re having a record year,” according to Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, which markets the U.S. to the world. Thompson thinks it’s “too early to tell” how the industry will fare, adding that the travel industry’s ups and downs may have “little or nothing to do” with Trump and more to do with the strong dollar and lackluster economies elsewhere.

Asked if there’s a “Trump slump” in travel to the 12 Southern states marketed by Travel South USA, CEO Liz Bittner said, “The truth of the matter is no. I think it was a lot of media hype.” Bittner agreed that the challenge for U.S. tourism “isn’t so much Trump. It’s the strong U.S. dollar against some of the other currencies,” which makes the U.S. an expensive destination for foreigners.

Daniele Biron, an Italian visiting the 9/11 memorial Monday while in New York for a conference, agreed that “the value of the dollar” is a factor for many travelers, but “I don’t know if the politics” matter to most visitors.

Isabelle Bornemann, owner of Alaska Travel Connections, said her international group bookings are down 30 percent, mainly because of the strong dollar. But some European travel agencies tell Bornemann the decision to stay away is political, based on the perception that foreigners aren’t welcome in the U.S.

Charlie Mallar, owner of the 1785 Inn in Conway, New Hampshire, had his busiest July 4th weekend in 34 years, but says “foreign visitors were off a bit — Trump effect. We have to assure foreign visitors that they are welcome in America.”

The Travel Trends Index predicts slower growth for the rest of 2017, but still nearly 2 percent higher than last year through November.

New York City’s tourism agency, NYC & Company, predicts that 300,000 fewer international travelers will visit the city this year than last, according to spokesman Chris Heywood.

Concerns about Trump administration’s policies include “rhetoric surrounding the travel ban, laptop bans on certain airline carriers and the threat of having visitors reveal social media accounts,” along with “the lack of a proactive welcome message on behalf of the nation,” Heywood said. New York has put up its own signs saying “New York City – Welcoming the World” in England, Germany and Mexico.

Comprehensive international arrivals data from the U.S. Commerce Department takes seven months to compile, so it will be next year before definitive 2017 statistics are available.

But the Commerce Department has seen a 5 percent increase January-March over the same period last year in collections from ESTA fees, which are electronic travel authorization fees paid by foreigners who don’t need visas to enter the U.S. That suggests increased visitation from visa-waiver countries like the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and Australia.

 

 

This article was written by Beth J. Harpaz from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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