Both the Global Business Travel Association Convention 2017 and United's second quarter earnings this week should give us a better handle on how corporate travel demand is faring in the Age of Trump and political uncertainties around the globe.
Conferences and earnings season, as well as approaching contract deadlines, always portend big news in the week ahead.
From a travel industry perspective, here’s what you need to know.
Global Business Travel Association Conference 2017
GBTA Convention 2017 has already kicked off in Boston and, as expected, the product and partnership announcements are flying at breakneck speed. The theme is “convergence” so you can anticipate lots of talk about the sharing economy and corporate travel, as well as all-important bleisure trends.
As the conference proceeds over the next few days, we expect to get greater insight into how Trump administration policies, global political unrest, and macro-economic issues have impacted business travel demand in recent months and what the outlook will be. There are also things, we predict, that won’t be overtly discussed, and they highlight a sometimes-lack of convergence between the big wheels in corporate travel and the business travelers below.
Pro Tip: Don’t expect retired General David Petraeus, who’s a featured luncheon speaker, to shed much light on the progress of getting basic economy fares into global distribution systems.
United Reports Second Quarter Earnings
United Continental Holdings is slated to report its second quarter results Wednesday, and they are shaping up to be a positive affair. According to preliminary estimates, passenger revenue per available seat mile will be up 2 percent and pre-tax margins are expected to rise higher than the airline predicted in April.
As with the Global Business Travel Association Convention, it will be interesting to get United’s take on corporate travel demand and the Trump slump or bump. So far, at least, the travel industry’s worst fears have been nightmarish, but not turned into a reality.
Meanwhile, it will be fascinating to see if United comments on — or gets questioned by analysts about — any hangover from the infamous incident of the doctor who got dragged off a plane. Documented moment by moment on social media, the fiasco doesn’t appear to have had a material effect on United’s earnings but it certainly didn’t boost United’s brand reputation.
An Appeals Court Ruling on the Trump Travel Ban
Grandparents and other relatives of refugees and others seeking visas will be watching the legal maneuvering surrounding the Trump travel ban this week. Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Justice asked the Ninth Circuit of Appeals to stay a district court ruling in Hawaii that widened the list of “bona-fide” relatives in the United States that could be considered during the vetting of refugee visas.
The Trump administration, following its partial win in the U.S. Supreme Court in June, had excluded consideration of refugees’ ties to grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins in the United States.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals could issue its decision on a stay of the Hawaii ruling this week pending the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately deciding the matter in October or soon thereafter.
The clock is ticking on the July 31 expiration of the Expedia-Hyatt distribution contract. Hyatt has gone ahead and penned a new contract with Booking.com to strike fear into Expedia’s heart, but it’s unclear how much lost Hyatt volume Booking.com could make up for if Hyatt’s properties go dark on Expedia at the end of this month.
Make no mistake, although Hyatt’s bookings on Expedia account for a small, single-digit amount of Expedia’s revenue, there are still hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in the outcome of these talks.
Will Hyatt’s property owners, whose interests aren’t always completely aligned with the mothership, start to speak out this week? Will the two sides announce a negotiation extension or even an agreement? Stay tuned. The whole hospitality and online travel industry is watching.
No Let-up in Trivago-TripAdvisor TV Advertising Competition
You can expect to see a lot more of the Trivago Guy and Trivago Woman tandem in U.S. TV advertising this week along with that cute owl character from rival TripAdvisor. Over the last week, according to iSpot.tv, Trivago has seemingly pressed its spending advantage, outspending TripAdvisor by an estimated $9.5 million for Trivago versus some $2.9 million for TripAdvisor margin. Will one of them adjusts their media-buying strategy this week to seek advantage?
Of course, both companies do TV advertising internationally, too, and they have tons of competitors beyond each other. Still, we’ll find out in earnings results next month for both companies what, if anything, is making a dent.
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Photo credit: Staffers take part in the GBTA Cares Service Project at the Global Business Travel Association Convention 2017 in Boston on July 15, 2017. Global Business Travel Association