The people, products, companies and trends
driving change in the business travel industry

Published 22nd January 2024

Business travel's narrative is changing: while recovery was the watchword for so long, evolution and innovation now prevail. BTN Europe's 2024 Hotlist highlights the people, products and trends influencing the industry's new direction.

Highlighting just a handful of people, companies and trends in an industry so rich in talent, leaders and innovation is no mean feat – the annual Hotlist could run a lot longer. This year's rundown features just four individuals and four companies, together with eight industry developments and the re-introduction of a 'ones to watch' category in which we highlight a selection of embryonic trends expected to gain momentum in 2024. Several of this year's Hotlisters are not making their first appearance – one is even appearing on it for the second consecutive year – while three have made the step up from 'honourable mentions' in 2023 thanks to their achievements in the past 12 months.

Among those narrowly missing out on selection this year were travel planning and engagement platform Tripism; serviced apartment specialists SilverDoor and AltoVita for their respective launches of carbon calculators; Clarivate travel manager Neil Woodliffe who has generously shared his insight and expertise on the use generative AI in travel management; and, following its acquisition of fellow UK travel management company Agiito last year, Clarity Travel Management, which is expected to unveil proprietary booking technology this year.

Read on to discover the diverse cross-section of our industry’s finest advocates, innovators and significant trends that comprise Business Travel News Europe's 2024 Hotlist.

Words: Lauren Arena, Rob Gill & Andy Hoskins

THE 2024


Environmental lobbyist
Angela Lille’s day job is that of travel manager for financial services provider Erste Group. She is also a board member at the Austrian Business Travel Association (ABTA), but she has been nominated for this year’s Hotlist for her efforts as sustainability lead at BT4Europe, the European network of business travel associations. Lille, who chairs BT4Europe’s Sustainability Working Group, has been leading the group’s campaign for the creation of a standardised method to measure CO2 emissions from business travel services. She was also the driving force behind the group’s first position paper on Sustainability in Business Travel, published in September 2022. She will be busy again in 2024, which is shaping up to be a key year for measuring sustainability in business travel, with CSRD (the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive) taking effect for many corporates, while there is uncertainty over when the CountEmissionsEU initiative will be introduced amid fears of more delays. As Lille said in a recent BTN Europe interview, her goal is for travel managers to be able to manage their carbon footprint through “consistent measurement that is applicable to all facets of business travel”.


Sustainability champion
Since joining the Global Business Travel Association in a newly created role in January 2022, Delphine Millot has “transformed” the organisation’s sustainability offering. Taking up the position of senior vice president, sustainability, and managing director, GBTA Foundation, Millot brought a skillset to the role that includes experience in both the business travel industry and in sustainability, advocacy and government affairs. Those skills have been put to good use, with Millot’s achievements to date including the relaunch of the “re-imagined” GBTA Foundation and the introduction of a Sustainability Corporate Advisory Board and a Sustainability Leadership Council. When it comes to resources, Millot has been instrumental in the delivery of a Sustainability Toolkit for travel managers, a best practice report on managing travel-related emissions, and a sustainable travel management course. And her advocacy efforts have been rewarded by earning the ears of policymakers and stakeholders in both Brussels and Washington DC. Most recently, you might have seen Millot's daily reports from the COP28 conference in the United Arab Emirates. As one commentator notes, Millot has “transformed” GBTA’s sustainability offering and is a leading “figurehead for championing climate action in business travel”.


Thought leader
Anyone who knows Johnny Thorsen also knows that when he opines on a subject you’re probably going to learn a thing or two, particularly if it’s on the topics closest to his heart: travel technology and sustainability. Thorsen, who is vice president of business development for content distribution at Spotnana, is described as “Exhibit A when it comes to advocating for better travel technology” by one industry commentator. They continued: “He makes clear and compelling cases for the benefits of NDC-enabled processes, critiques old and stodgy tech, surfaces new tech ideas and early-stage start-ups, makes insightful links between sectors of the industry – for example, the need for multi-modal distribution – and is passionate about making travel more sustainable.” A prolific poster on LinkedIn, Thorsen is transparent about the dichotomy posed by his travel activity and its impact on the environment – he has adopted a personal carbon budget – while many of his tech-themed bulletins focus on his mission to say #goodbyetothePNR.


Great expectations
Expect big things from the Global Business Travel Association in 2024 under the leadership of UK-based travel manager Mark Cuschieri who was elected as the association’s new board president in August 2023. Cuschieri, who is head of global travel management at Swiss bank UBS, also made the Hotlist in 2023 after becoming the first GBTA vice president based outside of North America. Following his step up to president of GBTA, what can we expect from Cuschieri in 2024? During the election process, he spoke of the organisation’s renewed global focus and insisted the GBTA has “only scratched the surface” in terms of its growth and influence around the world. “Imagine the numbers we could be, the insights we could have and the value we could create, if we could engage just a fraction of the true size of the global business travel and meetings management workforce,” he said at the time of his election. Cuschieri’s influence on the GBTA’s global development will be worth tracking this year.

THE 2024


Pushing boundaries
The first of three companies upgraded from honourable mentions in last year’s Hotlist, serviced apartment sourcing and booking specialist CAP Worldwide had a 2023 to remember. Founded in 2019 by Jo Layton with a team of five experienced professionals, the company posted 80 per cent growth year-on-year in 2023 and saw its turnover increase to just shy of £40 million. CAP also recruited Jessica Sharpe as global sales director and Simon Beauchamp as a director in 2023, with staff numbers now nearing 50 globally and operations up and running in the UK, North America and APAC. Among its blue-chip clients are two global banking giants, GE Vernova, GSK and Ikea, with several new implementations getting underway this month. “Our goal was never to be the biggest agent; our goal has always been to be the best and most trusted global agent,” says Layton, who highlights how its technology underpins the operation. As well as an “abundance” of client-specific API connections, the company has also this month connected to Airplus to facilitate smoother payment processes for clients globally.


Buying power
According to Gray Dawes, its takeover of Dutch travel management company VCK Travel this January was its 14th acquisition. It’s become hard to keep up such is the TMC’s appetite for growth, but this latest is perhaps one of its most significant deals since it almost doubles Gray Dawes’s annual turnover, pushing it beyond £500 million, and bolsters its presence in Europe. That, of course, comes on the back of acquisitions in Australia and the United States in 2023 which saw the company achieve its follow-the-sun, global aspirations. Gray Dawes is now knocking on the door of Europe’s top ten largest TMCs and shows no sign of slowing down – not bad for an agency ranked just 21st largest in the UK only six years ago. Suzanne Horner, Gray Dawes Group's CEO, said: “Our expansion into Europe is incredibly exciting. It represents the next step in our global growth plan and closes the circle on our unique service deliver strategy.” Horner featured in BTN Europe’s 2020 Hotlist after a flurry of acquisitions and, more recently, was named on Business Travel News’ 2023 Most Influential list.


Prolific partnerships
Since bursting on to the scene in a blaze of headlines and hype in 2021, the tech company has secured high-profile partnerships, developed new solutions and provided the foundations for new companies. A crescendo of announcements in 2023 personified the company’s diverse offering. Last year alone it launched a white glove service for VIP travellers and a carbon removal programme for corporates, it enabled US financial services company Brex to launch a travel booking service for its clients, it is the muscle behind a new booking platform for Qantas’ SME customers that includes hotel and car rental content, and in the autumn it significantly expanded its European rail content. Whilst able to itself function as a TMC, the company’s versatility enables it to partner with other players too. Notably, Spotnana’s tech stack underpinned the launch last year of new TMCs – Solutions Travel in the US and Ticketpro Travel Solutions in South Africa – and a new tech-led solution from CWT with whom it entered into a “strategic partnership”. In the distribution realm, meanwhile, it established “deep” integrations with United Airlines and the Lufthansa Group – an investor in Spotnana – that facilitate self-service changes of NDC bookings. It also began enabling travellers to self-serve cross exchanges for EDIFACT and NDC tickets, helping solve the issue of corporates holding credits for EDIFACT tickets that could not be used for NDC bookings. After a prolific 2023, what more can we expect from Spotnana in 2024?


Promising profiles
Improving the traveller experience is the raison d’etre of many start-ups and in that respect Travlr ID is no different. What sets it apart, however, is its journey down a path few have trodden, providing a network of blockchain-based decentralised profiles that put control in the hands of its owner, the traveller, who decides which suppliers – existing and new – have access to their information. Founded by Gee Mann, the company cites use cases including the ability to switch seamlessly between travel management companies and the potential for greater personalisation. "The traveller profile is broken," said Mann in an interview last year. "There's very little innovation or interoperability… and data breaches are very common. [Travlr ID] is a permission network. If I would like to share with Uber just two fields and with an airline 50, I can have the controls with who I'm sharing with and how much." One commentator sees the benefit: “As a corporate traveller, having the ability to control where my travel information is shared and who with – as opposed to it being sited in multiple places and having to duplicate the same data – would make my experience much better,” they said. In 2023 the company put its head above the parapet – winning the BTN Group’s Innovation Faceoff last summer in the process – and in 2024 the company is expected to really start making waves as it deploys live customers.

THE 2024


New players, new upgrades
The quality of corporate booking platforms has long been a bugbear for buyers and travellers alike, with many tools seen as lagging a long way behind leisure travel-orientated equivalents. That could be changing, however, with big players such as Concur launching a major upgrade of its online booking tool in the EMEA region featuring a “consumer-like” user experience. Other established tech giants have also stepped up their presence in the OBT market with Travelport buying Deem and integrating its booking tool; while rival Amadeus is making impressive strides with its Cytric platform and particularly its tie-up with software firm Microsoft, which has seen Cytric plugged into the latter’s Teams communication tool. Then there are newcomers such as, which is promoting a “next gen” blended platform allowing travellers to combine business and leisure trips. Meanwhile Zenmer is touting the flexibility of its OBT which allows TMCs and corporates to “work under one roof”. Expect more major progress in OBT development this year with AI helping to take these tools into a new dimension.


Detailed data
2024 is the year that reporting on sustainability gets serious for many companies in the EU and beyond as they need to start complying with the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). The directive includes more than 1,000 data points, including a single line on business travel, which falls under the “Significant Scope 3 GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions” category. Emissions from business travel during 2024 will have to be submitted by companies in 2025 alongside targets for 2025, 2030 and 2050. It’s not just EU corporates who will be affected as businesses based outside the bloc will also have to comply if their net turnover within the EU exceeds €150 million. Thankfully the EU seems to be aware of what an onerous task complying with the CSRD will be for companies, with some experts suggesting authorities will be “lenient for the first couple of years” on the methodology they initially use. The burden of reporting on business travel emissions should also be eased by the fact that companies with fewer than 750 employees can omit Scope 3 reporting during the first year.


Polling power
2024 will be one of the biggest years ever for elections across the world with more than 60 countries going to the polls. While much focus will be on the race for the US Presidency in November, it will be the European Parliament elections in early June that will be more consequential for the continent’s corporate travel industry and some key pieces of legislation, such as CountEmissionsEU and the Multimodal Digital Mobility Services (MDMS). European business travel group BT4Europe has already expressed frustration that these initiatives may be delayed until after the European elections. We will have to wait and see how the outcome of the vote across 27 member states changes the trajectory of EU policy. If populist politicians gain more of a foothold in the Parliament, what will that mean for some of the bloc’s key initiatives affecting corporate travel? There’s also the small matter of a looming UK general election, which is almost certain to be held at some point in 2024. The landscape could look very different politically come January 2025.


European influence
Will this year bring any more clarity on some governments’ attempts to restrict air travel on environmental grounds? Much of 2023 was dominated by whether the Dutch government would be able to impose a mandatory cut in the number of flights allowed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to reduce noise pollution. In the end, the capacity reduction was suspended “until further notice” following pressure from the US and EU, before the airport declared a “limited reduction” at the turn of the year. The initiative could also be dropped when a new coalition government is eventually formed in the Netherlands following November’s elections. Then there’s France’s ban on some short-haul domestic routes where there is an alternative train journey of less than two and a half hours. This has so far been a mostly symbolic initiative as it only applies to three routes from Paris Orly and will have to be reviewed in a couple of years anyway. But the big question is whether any other countries will follow suit? Beyond the EU, one of the biggest questions in European aviation is around the planned third runway at London Heathrow, the continent’s busiest hub. Will it go ahead? Expect to hear an update soon from the airport’s new CEO Thomas Woldbye on this thorniest of environmental issues.


Little tolerance
Under pressure to reduce their environmental impact, travel suppliers are deploying a range of strategies to cut carbon emissions and communicating loudly and proudly about them. But things aren't always as they seem, with companies sometimes overstating their achievements or offerings – and falling foul of advertising authorities – and others flaunting developments that aren't in fact all that effective. Tolerance for such 'greenwashing' activity is wearing thin. In 2023, BEUC, which represents 23 consumer groups across 19 European countries, lodged a complaint with the EU against 17 airlines for making “misleading climate-related claims”. Elsewhere, environmental group VossielFrij (Fossil Free) is suing Dutch flag carrier KLM under the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, claiming that the airline's Fly Responsibly marketing campaign was based on mitigations such as sustainable aviation fuel and offsetting that are insufficient to meet Paris Agreement climate goals. An outcome is expected in February. Meanwhile, Climate group Possible and law firm Leigh Day filed formal complaints against British Airways and Virgin Atlantic last autumn regarding their emission-reduction claims. And in December, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority banned certain Google adverts from Air France-KLM, Etihad Airways and Lufthansa on the grounds of giving a misleading impression of the airlines' environmental impact. European legislation designed to crack down on greenwashing is afoot but don't be surprised by further legal wrangling in 2024.


All together now
Positive steps are (finally) being made to ensure business travel is accessible for all travellers. In 2023, we saw a much more concerted effort to incorporate DEI into corporate travel programmes and, in particular, address the needs of neurodiverse travellers. While Marriott International recently announced plans to incorporate ‘neuroinclusive’ practices at events, companies like Eventwell, which provides quiet spaces at events, and Maiden Voyage, a consultancy specialising in promoting safety and wellbeing for travellers in diverse workforces, are at the forefront in this area. American Express Global Business Travel is also working with its clients to improve accessibility for travellers with physical impairments. After helping Google launch its Accessibility Travel Desk to provide travel booking assistance, the TMC last year rolled out the accessibility platform for corporate travellers at IBM. Meanwhile, hotel accessibility is being put to the test by the likes of Adam Hickingbotham, travel lead at design and engineering firm AtkinsRéalis, who recently launched an accessible hotels programme in the UK. Inclusivity advocates whose good work has not gone unnoticed include mental health and wellbeing consultant, Matt Holman, who was nominated for his unwavering dedication to driving positive change in the workplace. Meanwhile, Inntel client relationship manager, Tiffany Casson, and TripStax’s Scott Wylie are also championing neuroinclusivity within their respective companies and the wider industry. In 2024, Casson will also work with the GBTA to advocate more broadly for neurodivergent travellers.


Opportunity knocks
One of the positive trends to have come out of the post-pandemic period is a realisation by many small and medium-sized organisations that managed travel could be for them after previously adopting a DIY approach to travel bookings. There’s nothing quite like major disruption to bring home the advantages of having a TMC in your corner when things go wrong. The big TMCs have had their sights set on SMEs for many years but struggled to gain real traction. That seems to be changing now with Europe’s largest TMC American Express Global Business Travel restructuring last year in a bid to capture more of this market. Major airlines and hotel groups have also been busy launching or upgrading SME programmes, such as Lufthansa and Navan’s BusinessToGo platform and, just this month, Hilton's launch of a new programme for SMEs. How will those TMCs who have traditionally focused on the SME market respond to more intense competition? Also, where will the balance lie between serving these smaller customers almost entirely through online booking tools versus the ability to offer a more high-touch personalised service? One size may indeed not fit all when it comes to SMEs.


New schemes rubber stamped
Electronic travel authorisations are becoming all the rage across the world for visitors who do not require a visa, with the UK’s own version gradually being rolled out in 2024. The UK Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) was introduced for Qatari passport holders in October 2023, and will apply to nationals from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan from February. It will then be extended worldwide, including for EU visitors, by the end of this year. Everybody knows about the many delays to the implementation of the EU’s similar visa waiver scheme, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), and the most recent estimated start date is mid-2025, but the corporate travel industry still needs to get ready for this big change. What should finally happen this year is the introduction of the EU Entry-Exit System (EES), a biometric data system designed to replace passport stamping that needs to be operational before ETIAS can be implemented. EES is scheduled to launch this autumn – at least for now. ETIAS will operate in a similar way to the US’s long-established ESTA system for travellers from visa-waiver countries, including the UK.

THE 2024


Unique developments
Anything that makes business travellers’ lives easier and reduces friction when they are on the road has to be a good thing. Biometric technology has long been seen as the gateway to significantly improving the experience of getting through an airport and especially avoiding long queues at immigration. 2024 could mark a new watershed in this process with the introduction of new technology at European airports and transport hubs, including Frankfurt airport, which is installing facial recognition systems across all terminals, and train operator Eurostar, which is introducing similar technology at London St Pancras station. There is even the possibility that travellers will no longer have to use their passports at e-gates, with the UK’s Border Force expected to trial facial recognition technology at airports this year to create what the agency calls an “intelligent border” using “much more frictionless facial recognition”. This type of biometric tech is already being used at airport e-gates in Australia and Dubai. Expect many more biometric developments this year.


Time for change?
A move away from the reliance on the traditional global distribution systems (GDSs) has long been predicted and 2024 could finally see serious moves in this direction. Part of this disintermediation process is being driven by the increase in airline bookings being made through NDC-based channels, alongside the emergence of new online booking tool providers. Stefan Cars, CEO of Snowfall, which launched its Junction One OBT in 2023, spoke to BTN Europe about the potential demise of the GDS last summer, when he insisted that his company could “provide all the content, with better technology at a lower cost-base” than the GDSs. “The industry will notice more dissent from buyers who are frustrated with the GDS-centric tech used by so many TMCs,” says the company. This potential shift away from GDSs may also be driven by TMCs themselves, according to another company, TripStax, which provides technology directly to TMCs. “TMCs are really starting to look seriously at the roadmap for removing the GDS as their primary source for storing travel data and instead use the GDS for its true purpose as a content channel,” says TripStax’s David Chappell.


A year of investment
Amid an increasingly complex business travel landscape, travel managers are looking to simplify processes and streamline communication with travellers. Following the hype surrounding ChatGPT and generative AI in 2023, many believe 2024 will see a sharpened focus on the power of AI and chat technologies to replace human-based services. Some corporate travel managers are already piloting new AI integrations to explore different use cases, and a growing number of travel tech start-ups are touting the ways in which generative AI can transform the traveller experience, from assisting with flight and hotel bookings to personalised on-trip recommendations. But, as one commentator cautioned, 2024 will likely be a year of investment rather than results. “This is the first year that many companies are carving out a specific line in their budgets for AI development. Yet although Generative AI is developing very fast, it still has a long way to go before it can routinely handle most travel bookings and traveller servicing,” says Scott Wylie, chief technology officer at travel management technology provider TripStax. “It is more likely to be 2025 before our industry sees truly meaningful business travel AI products – although this technology is evolving so rapidly it could be earlier,” he adds. Tripstax has built a ‘proof of concept’ chatbot that can book flights with British Airways. Corporate heavyweights such as EY, Microsoft and Adobe are also experimenting in this area. 


All aboard?
The move to encourage more business travellers to choose the train over the plane – when practical in terms of journey length and cost – is seen as a key lever for corporates reducing their carbon emissions from travel. A new breed of sleeper trains around Europe could really help to give more impetus to this objective and make rail travel more viable on longer journeys around the continent. As a way of emphasising the potential of overnight trains, the Swedish Business Travel Association last year organised for a group of its travel buyer members to travel to the GBTA Europe convention in Hamburg, Germany, on a Swedish Rail (SJ) sleeper train instead of taking a flight from Sweden. New overnight services include the European Sleeper train, which launched a Brussels-Amsterdam-Berlin night train in May 2023, and will extend the route to Dresden and Prague from March 25 this year. Meanwhile Austria’s ÖBB, working alongside other European rail operators, has just launched new NightJet train services from Berlin to both Paris and Brussels, which operate three times per week on each route. Moving corporates from planes to trains is one thing, but is urging them to consider sleeper trains a step too far?


BTN Europe’s 2024 Hotlist was compiled and written by the Business Travel News editorial team. The people, organisations and developments identified on the list were selected from almost 200 nominations lodged by travel industry personnel between 20 November 2023 and 5 January 2024.

See also:
BTN Europe's 2023 Hotlist
BTN Europe's 2022 Hotlist
BTN Europe's 2021 Hotlist