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Business travelers know two things in their heart. Working on the road can be an opportunity to accomplish great things, and at the same time, it can also feel like a dehumanizing slog.
Nothing amazing in the world ever happened without some kind of face-to-face meeting taking place in the beginning. But, as we all know only too well, getting to that meeting in a distant city isn’t always a day of sunshine.
On April 24, the inaugural National Business Traveler Day kicks off to acknowledge the sacrifices and support the efforts of approximately 20 million U.S. business travelers, who inject $547 billion into the U.S. economy annually.
More than 25 travel companies, media groups, and non-profit organizations are involved in the launch of National Business Traveler Day.
Upside Business Travel is leading the initiative, and The Wall Street Journal serves as the media partner. They are joined by United Airlines, XpresSpa, Hertz, Mastercard, Uber for Business, and UNTUCKit, along with: 1-800-Flowers; 24 Hour Fitness; Audible; BARK, the makers of BarkBox; Blue Bottle Coffee; Global Business Travel Association; Hudson Group, operators of Hudson and Hudson News; iHeartMedia; iPass; JetBlue, Journy; LATAM Airlines; LoungeBuddy; The Points Guy; and THNKS. Dress for Success is the non-profit partner for National Business Traveler Day.
Collectively, their goal is to show solidarity for the people helping drive the country’s future, especially the “unmanaged” DIY business traveler. Those are people responsible for making their own business travel arrangements without the assistance of any company-wide corporate travel program.
“DIY business travelers have a job to do and objectives to meet, so they’re not traveling for the sake of traveling,” says Jay Walker, chairman and co-founder of Upside Business Travel. “The challenge for them is they have no professional assistance of any kind, especially on a 24/7 basis, so they’re continually dealing with logistics and adapting to changes. And then, when one piece of a business trip goes sideways, often all of the pieces that follow it go sideways.”
It’s not a stretch to suggest that today’s travel infrastructure and fractured ecosystem of travel services are overtaxed. And that’s on a good day.
Factor in inclement weather, fussy technology, peak travel periods, and any number of other unexpected disruptions, and suddenly the unmanaged traveler is alone, away from home, and faced with a bunch of real-time decisions to make.
“If nobody’s watching that proactively, you’re constantly being buffeted by forces beyond your control, which is why business travel can be so incredibly frustrating,” explains Walker. “It’s also not just that travel is inconvenient and things go wrong, it’s the fact that you’re trying to do a job while all those things are going wrong.”
So, yes, business travelers deserve their own day. They also deserve a lot of love from the industry that benefits so much from their travel.
According to Jon Ellenthal, co-founder of Upside Business Travel, the involvement of 25-plus companies, non-profits, and industry organizations in National Business Traveler Day illustrates the wide range of support for business travelers, which perhaps hasn’t been fully recognized in the past.
“We decided from the beginning that we would create an open platform that would make it easy for multiple brands to participate, from leading companies in the travel space to non-profits serving business travelers,” says Ellenthal.
“We learned quickly that there are many who want to be seen as leaders by business travelers. Having so many organizations participate initially makes this a bigger deal in year one, and it’s a sign of what’s to come in future years. As a group, we can create much more awareness and goodwill among a coveted but often underserved and under-appreciated customer segment.”
#NBTDay Contests and Sweepstakes
To participate in National Business Traveler Day, enter the Business Traveler Dream Sweepstakes for a chance to win thousands of prizes provided by Upside and its partners.
The Grand Prize is free first class upgrades on domestic flights for 20 years. Imagine: Long leg room and large laptop tables. A place to hang your jacket. And, yes, cheese plates — for two decades. (The winner will receive $5,000 a year for 20 years.)
There are many other prizes as well. One entrant will win $5,000 to cover free first class domestic upgrades for a year. Someone else will win two roundtrip international business class tickets from United Airlines, valued at $7,500 each. (Click here for full contest rules.)
Earlier this month, Upside hosted a tournament-style 32 Greatest Business Trips in History bracket challenge. Entrants voted for what they thought are the most iconic travel moments and important meetings in history, ranging from the signing of the Declaration of Independence to Marco Polo’s voyage to China.
The person who voted closest to the overall bracket outcome will win $5,000 on National Business Traveler Day.
“We realize that many business travelers will not be in an airport on April 24, so we kicked off the sweepstakes, tournament bracket, and other online media six weeks ahead of time to reach the broadest possible audience,” says Ellenthal. “The whole thing is really an effort to make business travelers feel as recognized and valued as possible, and generate awareness for the companies that serve them.”
Now it’s time to mark your calendars. The inaugural National Business Traveler Day is designed to be the first of many, when the entire U.S. business travel industry takes stock of itself. If you’re flying on April 24, maybe head to the airport a little early. Upside and its partners have planned a host of activations in select airports and XpresSpa stores across the country.
So, first, make sure to enter the Business Traveler Dream Sweepstakes.
Amid the planned celebrations, prize giveaways, and media engagements surrounding National Business Traveler Day, it’s easy to get distracted from the big picture.
Every year, more than half a trillion dollars is pumped into the U.S. economy by business travelers. Furthermore, many of those well-traveled working men and women are navigating the U.S. travel infrastructure and today’s barrage of digital travel planning and booking tools — alone.
Here are the facts:
According to the Global Business Travel Association, an estimated 514 million domestic business trips account for about 3 percent of U.S. GDP, which is roughly on par with the U.S. automotive industry. The business travel industry supports 7.4 million jobs and generates $135 billion in federal, state and local taxes. In addition to that direct benefit, supply chain beneficiaries receive an additional indirect contribution of $132 billion.
And, according to the U.S. Travel Association, every dollar invested in business travel creates $9.50 in increased revenue and $2.90 in new profits for businesses.
“Travel is an enabler of business, but it’s not in and of itself the biggest business,” says Walker. “People tend to measure the direct impact of business travel by counting the number of hotel rooms or airplane seats filled. The much bigger economic activity is what results from people meeting face-to-face. In many ways, business travel is the lifeblood of how business gets done.”
Half of the mission behind National Business Traveler Day is driving home that message to increase awareness among policy-makers, consumers, and everyone involved in the business travel industry.
The other half is thanking the people who are leaving their home and office to attend a business meeting at the mercy of today’s overburdened U.S. travel system.
“We were looking for a way to connect with business travelers, with a message that we understand what they go through,” Ellenthal says. “National Business Traveler Day is sending the message that we appreciate them and all they have to do to get business done.”