April 5 2011 by Bryson Forbes
In the last week of March, the newly branded Global Business Travel Association of Canada held their annual conference in Toronto. The event was sold out for months, and as one speaker noted in his address, they "did a good job dealing with all the scalpers trying to get in." Now THAT"s a hot ticket!
The mood was more optimistic than in recent history, and much of the discussion revolved around moving business forward, new and innovative approaches to business travel, environmental issues and price transparency. No one was predicting doom and gloom, which felt really good!
The event started with a bang with a lively panel discussion sponsored by Best Western. Peter Greenberg of CBS fame moderated the panel, which included Duncan Bureau from WestJet, Don McPhail from Enterprise and Dorothy Dowling from Best Western. Peter entertained the crowd, using a nice balance of humour and sarcasm but certainly pulled no punches, getting straight to the key issues of the day. Most notably, Peter pounded Duncan about airline pricing and ancillary fees. He referenced a personal experience from a recent European trip with an advertised fare was $29, but for which he ended up paying $300 once his two bags were on board! Duncan handled the onslaught superbly and addressed the topics head on. He reminded us of just how expensive it is to operate an airline in Canada, given geographic realities, consumer needs and all the taxation---not to mention the current thirty percent inflation on airline fuel prices versus a year ago.
Peter was very complimentary about the newly launched descriptor program from Best Western and after a thorough review from Dorothy, he concluded that listening to customers and clearly setting their expectations is nothing if not a great business move. What struck me was the crowd commentary after the panel: Best Western's value message, and its inclusive pricing, seemed to really resonate with everyone.
Don McPhail from Enterprise discussed the challenges that a rental car company faces. It was fascinating to hear about the impact of the financial crisis on the Big Three car manufacturers, and subsequently on Enterprise. The company was forced to evaluate its strategy, which has resulted in many innovative measures, such as company "car share" programs. That initiative, good for the buyers, for Enterprise and for the environment, is a real win, win, win!
The session concluded with some lively discussion and questions from the crowd. At only ninety minutes into the GBTA conference, the energy and enthusiasm was palpable.
What are the innovative trends you have observed or heard about that will impact the way you travel?