GBTA’s Canada Conference spotlights the resurgence in business travel

Over 600 registered business travel buyers, suppliers and other attendees — including over 50 exhibiting companies – where on hand for the Global Business Travel Association Canada Conference in Toronto this week.

The GBTA’s annual Canadian event featured presentations, panel conversations, education sessions, along with recognizing GBTA’s Canadian volunteers and celebrating at the conference’s legendary ‘Big Night Out’ networking event.

It also brought a lot of good news, making it clear that business travel in Canada is poised for a strong, evolving future.

Held at the Beanfield Centre, the GBTA’s 20th annual regional event featured the release of the association’s Canada-specific forecast from its Business Travel Index™ (BTI) Outlook report along with other research highlights, insights and trends ahead for the industry.

According to data from the latest GBTA BTI report, business travel spending in Canada is expected to recover to its pre-COVID level this year, which is one year later than the broader North American region but parallel to the global rate of recovery.

For 2024, GBTA forecasts indicate Canadian business travel spending is anticipated to reach $25.9 billion USD, representing annual growth of 13.5%. This outpaces both global (11.8%) and United States (9.2%) growth forecasts. In 2019 before the pandemic, Canadian business travel had reached $25.7 billion USD.

Other key GBTA research takeaways for the Canada business travel sector included:

  • Canadian travel buyers expect to spend more on business travel in 2024, with nearly three in five (59%) planning for their companies’ spend to be higher compared to last year.
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Canadian travel buyers expect their company will take more business trips this year compared to last year, but two in five (18%) expect the same volume of business trips.
  • When asked about challenges, Canadian buyers and suppliers cited financial concerns at the top of their list, namely the rising cost of travel, overall economic conditions and corporate budgets not keeping pace with needs.

In the 2023 GBTA BTI’s worldwide survey of business travellers, 57% of Canadian business travellers who responded say they traveled the same amount or more than they did pre-pandemic.

  • 55% said they blended travel (i.e. combining leisure travel with their business trips) more than they did in 2019.
  • They reported spending an average of $884 USD per business trip in 2023.
  • 82% said business travel is worthwhile in achieving their business objectives.

New National and Regional GBTA Leadership Takes the Stage

Janette Acosta Sanchez, who joined GBTA in February as Country Director for Canada, took the conference’s main stage for the first time, leading key sessions and reiterating the organization’s commitment to educate, communicate and advocate for a thriving post-pandemic Canadian business travel industry.

Acosta Sanchez observed: “Canada is a truly diverse country, marked by a variety of cultures, mindsets and priorities. There are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions and GBTA is squarely focused on creating a sustainable, successful future for the Canadian business travel industry. A strong business travel industry is essential to the region, from ensuring our future workforce to making Canada one of the top economies for global business travel.”

Along with Acosta Sanchez and a high profile group of presenters, panelists and guests, Cristina Scott, GBTA Senior Vice President for the Americas, also addressed the conference’s attendees for the first time since joining GBTA in August 2023.

Scott told the audience: “One of GBTA’s pillars is uniting the business travel community, and we recognize Canada has a unique travel market, filled with diversity in its people and priorities. With so much going on in our industry right now as we continue to discover what a post-pandemic business travel sector looks like, we are committed to making sure Canada’s voice is heard while we look ahead and navigate the future of business travel together.”

Celebrating milestones, recognizing volunteers and more 

GBTA Board of Directors President, Mark Cuschieri, opened the conference by noting 2024 marks 20 years GBTA has held a Canada Conference.

GBTA’s head of Government Relations and Community Affairs, Shane Downey, discussed the association’s advocacy priorities and actions taken globally and in Canada. He also led a discussion with expert panelists on how the travel industry is responding to government initiatives and seeking solutions. Additionally, a main stage fireside chat on the country’s accessibility standards included Canadian government officials.

GBTA again recognized outstanding volunteers in Canada for their contributions. Award recipients are:

  • GBTA Volunteer Inspiration Award: Patrick Doyle, Chief Commercial Officer for Flight Claim
  • Business Travel Service Award winners for Canada: Jennifer Urquhart, Director, Strategic Sales, at Enterprise Mobility, and Charles Crowder, Head of Global Airline Relationships at ARC Corporation

Education sessions focused on critical priorities and opportunities in the Canadian business travel sector including travel manager needs of the future; traveler evolution and the passenger journey; embracing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other technologies; the continuing roll-out of New Distribution Capability (NDC); and sustainability in business travel. The event also included numerous buyer and supplier sessions, networking opportunities, and a special welcome event for new and returning industry professionals. The Canada Conference’s concluding main stage was an “Ask Me Anything” session with supplier and buyer panelists who answered questions about various topics related to the Canadian business travel landscape.

GBTA also announced it will host its 21st Canada Conference again at the Beanfield Centre in Toronto April 28-30, 2025.