Asian corporate travel managers and former members of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) – and its previous iteration National Business Travel Association (NBTA) – indicate that stronger corporate governance is needed to get the association back on track.
This and more were brought to light due to the recent exposé on GBTA’s hostile working environment and the management style of CEO Scott Solombrino.
A buyer who received his corporate travel expert certification from NBTA commented that board members’ meeting only once or twice a year would not be scrutinising the association’s operations.
“As a not-for-profit organisation with board members who are volunteers, corporate governance was probably not as strong as it should be,” he said, adding that budget cuts resulting in GBTA’s departure from Asia in late-2019 and its US-centric research and White Papers offered Asian members less value.
Another corporate travel manager, whose GBTA membership lapsed five years ago, observed: “As a not-for-profit association, GBTA became commercial and less relevant for what I wanted, whereas ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives) was more beneficial.”
The travel manager added that GBTA’s annual conventions in the past were “a useful platform for Asian hospitality companies trying to reach US buyers and they could get up to 100 RFPs”.
On the allegations, former GBTA board member Paul Tilstone, commented: “The challenge here is that the issue goes beyond the communications we have witnessed in the press, so any response from the board solely with regards to the CEO is unlikely to satisfy the deeper challenges it faces with industry sentiment.”
Tilstone, who is the managing partner of UK-based travel and meetings management company, Festive Road, added: “The CEO allegations require strong corrective measures but additionally the whole GBTA construct needs change. A not-for-profit driven by profit will continue to make mistakes and be driven by the wrong outcomes.”
“Naturally, every supplier needs to consider its own position based on its own values. From our point of view, before the email, we were already uncomfortable with various GBTA positions so Festive Road withdrew from the convention back in February (pre-Covid-19) as soon as GBTA applied surcharges to exhibitors to pay for the opening reception.
“It wasn’t the cost of the surcharge, but the principle. And it’s this overall attitude that concerns a number of the members,” Tilstone elaborated.