This year, I was delighted to be a recipient of a Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) funded Scholarship to attend my first GBTA Convention in Chicago, August 3-7. After years of hearing my colleagues talk about the networking and educational opportunities offered at the convention, as well as the fantastic speaker presentations, I was going. Finally, I’d have a chance to see what all the hype was about!
For those not in the know, this convention is considered “The Business Travel Event of the Year®” and features over 400 exhibiting companies, 175 education, and professional development sessions and nearly 7,000 attendees representing over 50 countries. The theme for this year’s GBTA Convention was “Evolve,” justifiably named since almost every aspect relating to the travel industry is evolving.
Once checked-in to the Convention, I attended the “first-timer” Orientation & Luncheon. The keynote speaker was best-selling author, Judi Holler who is a professionally trained improviser and alumni of The Second City’s Conservatory in Chicago. Judi really broke the ice with her “fear experiments” involving audience participation, which gave a sneak peek into the world of improv theatre. Her key message was to embrace change, look forward to failure, and have less emotional reactivity in stressful situations. I’ve accepted the challenge – wish me luck!!
After lunch, it was time to jump into a multitude of education sessions. I mapped out my schedule and attended sessions focusing on Emerging Technologies, Account Management, Reporting, and Virtual Payments. All topics that will help me when meeting with my customers.
In addition to these informative sessions, we had breakouts each day to hear from individuals such as Dennis Muilenburg, Chairman, President, and CEO of The Boeing Company, who spoke about challenges facing the recent grounding of their 737 MAX jets; Oscar Munoz, President & CEO of United Airlines who spoke about the airline industry; and Mark Hoplamazian, President and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation who spoke about changes within the hotel industry.
Finally, as if all the above wasn’t enough, the GBTA Exhibit Hall & Expo allowed me to meet and interact with over 400 leading suppliers of services and products to the travel industry. This was where I could see up close the latest industry innovations and technical advancements impacting our industry. It’s so important to stay on top of new products so that Covington can provide the best advice and service to our customers. The Expo was alive with activity and I embraced the opportunity to see and learn about the latest and greatest travel products and services. It would be hard to choose what I enjoyed most about the Expo, but I would be remiss not to mention Innovation Row, where I met and interacted with new industry start-ups showcasing their cutting-edge products and services. From ride sharing and taxi apps to mobile apps built on neuroscience that reduce jet lag, Innovation Row was a snapshot of our future!
I’ve been in the travel industry 30+ years, and this was the first time I’ve seen this magnitude of travel professionals all in one place at the same time. The wealth of industry knowledge and information was overwhelming! The education sessions were informative, and I really enjoyed listening to all the expert opinions and discussions at Center Stage. I spent four days developing new professional relationships, meeting new friends, and speaking to like-minded peers, all the while learning about new industry products, trends, and technologies. I now completely understand the hype – this may have been my first GBTA Convention, but I sincerely hope it will not be my last.
Anne Marie Justis is an Account Manager in Covington’s Business Travel Services division helping corporate accounts monitor their travel programs.