Usually the last day of any conference, especially a longer one like NBTA, is a pretty light day. Many people have already left because they've done their business, and most people need to get back to work. While there were people who left NBTA early this year, it was clear that many people stuck around simply for the closing session. Why? It was a talk delivered by President Clinton. Let's look at some highlights from the day.
- I started the day by making a beeline for the Virgin booth. These guys put on a heck of a display, and all Virgin carriers were present. (Yes, even the soon-to-be-renamed Virgin Nigeria was there.) I was hoping to meet with Virgin America spokesperson Abby Lunardini, but once again we missed each other. I've been speaking with her for over a year and a half and I've still never met her. But I was surprised to see CEO David Cush on the scene. He was the only top exec I saw at the event who wasn't a speaker. Interesting that he made time to come meet with people.
- Egencia gets the award for the most persistence. We had tried multiple times to get together, but it only happened at the very end of the exposition on the last day. Egencia is the corporate travel arm of Expedia, and we talked about trends. As if we didn't know, 2009 was "not a great year." But the trend for 2010 is mixed. From a corporate perspective, hotel and car prices are expected to rise moderately, but for air travel the news has been good. Of course, from an airline perspective, that's bad news because it means fares are down. Egencia is actually expecting prices to go up at some point, so they're encouraging early booking. That would be a big change from the current trend of a closer-in booking window.
- Unlike Jay Leno the previous day, President Clinton tailored his speech to the travel crowd. He talked about the importance of business travel and about his recent "business trip" to North Korea. He says he remains convinced that while not all the world's problems can be solved by sitting down face to face, more of them can be solved than what's happening now. He also pushed for more investment in solving healthcare in the US and around the world, in particular programs to reduce the impact from AIDS, malaria, and more in third world countries. It was actually a very enjoyable speech, and it's easy to see how he has captivated many an audience.