GBTA renews focus on the thriving APAC region

From left: GBTA's Peter Koh and Suzanne Neufang

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), is refocusing on the region and stepping up re-engagement in Asia Pacific, nearly eight years after the association closed its regional Bangkok office in March 2015.

GBTA is currently in the process of hiring an Asia Pacific regional director, and plans to pilot its Global Equity Programme (GEP) in the region. Earlier in June, a new 12-member Asia-Pacific advisory board was appointed.

From left: GBTA’s Peter Koh and Suzanne Neufang. Photo: Caroline Boey

Peter Koh, chair of the Asia Pacific advisory board, said the launch of GEP – and call for sponsors – was aimed at providing free membership to corporate travel managers (CTM) in the “region’s emerging markets” such as Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Koh, who was active in focus groups after GBTA completed its acquisition of ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives) in 2020 and was involved in the two-year process, expressed the need for buyers “to close the gap, connect and share”.

GEP, he pointed out, would help bring buyers from emerging markets on board and put them on par with education, offer them certification, and provide networking opportunities.

He said: “There was a gap with no association presence.”

Since its formation, the advisory board has set up risk mitigation and sustainability sub-committees. Another committee focusing on accommodation will be set up soon, Koh shared.

Suzanne Neufang, CEO, also highlighted the association’s 2022 rebranding – Many Voices. One Purpose.

Asia was slower to open, she commented, and when the region was “more normal” following the pandemic, GBTA took the first step to partner PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) for the inaugural Bangkok event.

According to Koh, the recent Singapore conference was attended by 632 attendees from 17 countries, including 127 buyers, and will return next year from May 13 to 14.

Neufang added the expo component of this year’s conference and registration were “sold out”, and with Asia Pacific contributing some 39 per cent of all business travel, there was a possibility that the event could expand to become an “international conference” like its US and European counterparts.

Koh said there was a hunger for information, while Neufang observed new corporate travel trends that used to start in the West “now start in Asia” and “innovations are here first”.

Neufang noted: “Asia Pacific buyers are the fastest growing market and many joined GBTA to attend the Singapore event.”

With China and India being such different markets, Koh shared that one-day country-specific sessions are being looked into, with the possibility of such events appearing on the calendar next year.

Newly-elected GBTA president Mark Cuschieri added that Asia was “shaping the role of global travel” and GBTA was committed to delivering the “pillars of community, education and advocacy worldwide”.

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