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Q&A: GBTA’s Suzanne Neufang on the evolution of business travel

Global Business Travel Association CEO Suzanne Neufang discusses the evolution of business travel, the industry’s growing focus on sustainability and what will be on the agenda for the association’s annual GBTA Convention in August.

4 min read


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This post is sponsored by the Global Business Travel Association.

Business travel has been steadily increasing after a pandemic-era downturn, and industry professionals are adapting to meet travelers’ changing needs. In this interview, Global Business Travel Association CEO Suzanne Neufang discusses the business travel forecast, the industry’s growing focus on sustainability and what will be on the agenda for the association’s annual GBTA Convention in August.

How has business travel rebounded since the beginning of the pandemic, and what does GBTA predict for the near future? Have inflation and economic uncertainty had an impact on business travel in recent months?

Photo of GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang

Business travel has been making a steady comeback from the pandemic over the past 18-24 months. We started seeing a return of domestic trips in 2021, and last year the rebound gained even more momentum. In an April GBTA poll, travel buyers estimated that domestic business travel bookings have reached 72% of pre-pandemic levels, while international bookings have recovered to 63%. Spend is tracking even higher. This positive trend is expected to continue, indicating a strong outlook for business travel.

In August last year, our GBTA Business Travel Index forecast that the industry would bounce back to pre-pandemic spending levels of $1.4 trillion by mid-2026. At our GBTA Convention this August, we’ll unveil an updated BTI forecast. It’ll be interesting to see how rising prices, market uncertainty and other global developments have impacted the past year and what it means for business travel ahead.

How has the persistence of remote work affected business travel and the nature of in-person meetings and events?

Whether hybrid or fully remote, new ways of working as a result of the pandemic have had a profound impact on business travel and in-person meetings and events. While some companies are now calling their employees back to the office, others have decided to stick with remote work. Regardless of the workplace model, one thing remains clear: people still need and want to conduct business and connect in real life. In-person meetings have regained their importance in building relationships, fostering trust and closing deals. And for teams working remotely across locations, in-person meetings have become vital for meaningful connections and culture-building.

GBTA will host the largest gathering of the global business travel industry in August – the annual GBTA Convention. What main themes and topics will speakers address this year?

An association nor an event exists for over half a century unless they continue to deliver value and meet people’s needs. We are incredibly grateful for our attendees, sponsors and exhibitors who keep returning year after year. GBTA’s new brand pillars focus on “Community, Learning, and Advocacy” and our new brand tagline since the last Convention is “Many Voices. One Purpose” – which lends itself very well to our main stage themes which highlight Future of Work, Sustainability and Future of Travel and Tech. We have evolved to a more TED-talk-like attendee experience than 1980s-style convention – to reflect what current convention-goers are looking for. Participants can look forward to building connections, peer-to-peer education, insights from leading experts and opportunities to advance their careers and skills. We’ll also be covering timely topics including navigating new retailing models, creating sustainable travel programs and understanding changing traveler expectations.

Sustainability is becoming a key factor in corporate travel programs, according to the GBTA Foundation’s recent report, “The State of Climate Action in Business Travel – Global Industry Barometer 2023.” How is GBTA working with travel managers to help them implement sustainable practices?

Sustainability is a priority in our industry and for business travel programs, and the GBTA Foundation’s recent climate action report confirms this trend. The business travel industry recognizes the urgent need for change, with 92% of survey respondents stating that sustainability is a priority for their organizations.

At GBTA, we’re focused on helping travel managers in the implementation of sustainable practices. Along with insightful research, we focus on advocacy, toolkits, training programs, workshops and regional conferences that help our members achieve more sustainable travel practices and programs. We are committed to enabling and empowering a greener future for business travel. As an industry, we must harmonize standards and invest to decarbonize business travel. Corporate travel managers will play a leading role in engaging business travelers to choose more sustainable options through their travel policies and programs. Together, we can make a significant impact and shape a sustainable future for business travel.

Learn more about GBTA and the GBTA Foundation, and register to attend the GBTA Convention, Aug. 13-15 in Dallas.