Posted: August 19, 2015

Highlights of the GBTA 2015 Convention
Here are some of the main takeaways from this year's GBTA Convention.

Every year, the Global Business Travel Association hosts one of the largest gatherings of business travel industry experts and workers in the world. The annual GBTA Convention is a means for bringing together some of the most forward-thinking individuals within the corporate travel trade to not only share and enlighten crowds on the latest and future trends affecting the field, but also to encourage and inspire companies and employees looking to improve their business travel practices. At this year's event, which took place from July 25-29 in Orlando, Florida, there were plenty of incredible guest speakers on hand, on top of unveilings of the latest travel innovations and a variety of surprises. Take a look at some of the highlights that made this year's GBTA Convention one for the ages:

GBTA 2015 Convention spotlights #Sharing

With nearly 7,000 people in attendance at this year's gathering, the GBTA Convention prides itself as being the largest "annual gathering of business travel and meetings managers, meeting planners, procurement professionals and suppliers anywhere in the world." In addition to providing industry insight from renowned keynote speakers, the convention features more than 80 industry-leading education sessions, an expansive expo floor featuring booths and stages dedicated to providing attendees with tips and networking opportunities and much more. The conference was held at the Orange County Convention Center, and the theme for this year's rendition was titled "#Sharing," which serves as a reference to what experts believe to best describe the current state of the business travel industry.

Thousands gathered to hear keynote speakers such as Kevin Bacon and Steve Wozniak. Thousands gathered to hear keynote speakers such as Kevin Bacon and Steve Wozniak.

Guest speakers galore

From Hollywood stars to technology industry icons, the GBTA 2015 Convention certainly had its fair share of memorable guest speakers. One of the first big speakers to take the stage in Orlando was acclaimed actor Kevin Bacon, who was selected by the organization to share his thoughts on this year's theme for the convention: sharing. Michael W. McCormick, executive director and COO of the GBTA, elaborated on why Bacon was chosen to kick off the ceremonies.

"This year's Convention is all about #Sharing as there is no other industry where face-to-face meetings and the concept of #Sharing is more prevalent than the business travel industry," McCormick said in a statement. "So who better to welcome to our Convention Arena stage than Kevin Bacon – an actor who has shown more than anyone how people can be connected?"

Bacon filled the audience in on plenty of stories from his esteemed career in the entertainment industry, and also went into detail on his charity organization called the Six Degrees Foundation, which encourages connecting celebrities with various grass-roots charities across the country. Bacon also discussed why traveling is the basis for creating connections, and sat down for a Q&A with GBTA board member Mick Lee after his speech.

Another highly anticipated keynote speaker was journalist and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who elaborated on the decisions in her life that led the TV personality down a path to everything from her days as an attorney to covering the latest political news. Of course, the biggest surprise speaker at this year's convention had to be Silicon Valley legend Steve Wozniak. The co-founder of Apple Computer discussed how technology has evolved during his rise to prominence, as well as how he sees the role of technology impacting business travel in the future.

"An expert panel debated the merit and future of the sharing economy."

Discussing the 'sharing economy'

In spirit of the convention's theme, the most discussed trend within the business travel industry had to do with the recent emergence of what experts label the "sharing economy." This term refers to everything from the growing popularity of lodging and ridesharing services such as Airbnb and Uber to these new companies' impact upon the hospitality industry as a whole. As MeetingsNet reports, a panel of experts, including Rufino Pérez Fernández, chief commercial officer of the NH Hotel Group, Chip Conley, head of global hospitality and strategy for Airbnb, Greg Stubblefield, chief strategy officer at Enterprise Holdings and Kaye Cellie, president of Zipcar Kaye Cellie, weighed in on defining what this sharing economy truly means as well as figuring out where it's headed. Debates waged on whether these "sharing" companies stress convenience over experience, and panel members elaborated on how these startup travel-based businesses are encouraging the conventional hospitality companies to find new ways to cater to younger, more tech-savvy business travelers.

Latest travel industry innovations

One of the more entertaining elements of the convention is the unveiling of many travel and hospitality company innovations, ranging from new technology to revolutionary smartphone apps. Hilton Hotels revealed its plans to introduce more than 250 of its U.S. properties to digital room keys through their Hilton's HHonors app, an indicator that mobile check-in and check-out could be the norm for the future of the hotel industry. Ground transportation company Dav El informed a crowd on its newly designed app intended for easing the ride-booking process for companies who are hesitant on using other ride-sharing services such as Lyft or Uber. Lastly, the American International Group announced its launching of a new online tool called Travel Tracer, which is aimed to help employers keep better track of employee management during business travel. All of these announcements indicate that plenty of changes are ahead for the business travel industry, and employers and employees alike can expect these innovative technologies sooner than expected. 

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