The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention came to a close with the ‘Mavericks of Business – CEO Panel,’ bringing together pioneers in business, including Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company; Gary C. Kelly, president and CEO, Southwest Airlines; Gamal Aziz, president and CEO, MGM Mirage Hospitality; and Robert Stephens, founder & COO, GeekSquad and CTO, Best Buy, Inc. The panel explored the vision of industry leaders at the forefront of the travel, hospitality, technology and customer service industries. These leaders also discussed the process of translating creativity, vision and strategy into execution and innovation in the competitive travel industry.
Gary Kelly of Southwest told attendees what Southwest Airlines stands for: freedom in flying and democratizing the skies, being a low cost, not cheap, airline. Kelly also informed the crowd that business travelers are a critical market segment to their business strategy and by catering to the market they are creating more choice. MGM’s Gamal Aziz shared with the crowd his experiences of being innovative in the hospitality industry and the importance of hiring and involving employees in their organization. Aziz told the audience MGM “creates demand by creating a destination,” not by benchmarking MGM against competition. Instead MGM focuses on creating and implementing new and truly creative ideas and amenities. Finally, Robert Stephens, founder of the GeekSquad, stated his goal is to the help ordinary people do extraordinary things with technology because technology is just the tool to allow people to do great things. Stephens shared his view on customer service, noting it’s the simplest things, such as opening a door at a hotel, that matter most.
Opening up the afternoon session GBTA’s board of directors said a fond farewell to Craig Banikowski as he transitions from serving as the president of GBTA to the role of chairman. Craig received on stage tokens of gratitude from the board of directors, who noted it was his vision for the association to become global and his hard work and commitment made it happen. The new board of directors also announced Jim McMullan, global travel manager of Research Triangle Institute, as the new president and CEO. Kevin Maguire, CCTE, GLP, travel manager for Intercollegiate Athletics for the University of Texas at Austin, will serve as the new GBTA vice president. GBTA also applauded nine graduates the Global Leadership Profession (GLP) designation and 30 Strategic Meetings Management Certification graduates.
The general session concluded with a discussion between Sean Penn and sponsor of the session Amadeus’ North America Executive Vice President Vic Pynn. Amadeus has a commitment to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti including the completion of an orphanage which will house and school over 100 children. Pynn shared with the audience the alarming statistic that there are over 300,000 orphans in Haiti and they are still rebuilding after the devastating earthquake. Sean Penn, Oscar-winning film icon and humanitarian, founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization which focuses on debris removal, medical aid, protection, education and re-location and shares the cause of relief efforts in Haiti with Amadeus. Penn told the audience about what motivated him to get involved in these efforts. He said visiting the country after the earthquake and seeing “bona-fide poverty” and people in pain without medication hit close to home. He also shared his views on travel, humorously telling attendees he loves air travel in particular because he is unreachable while in flight. Penn shared his love for Southwest with the audience because they are “funny and on time.” The packed room gave Penn a standing ovation when the session ended.