The Pitches Are In. Time To Pick Your Favorite Keynote For The Beat Live

The Beat is pleased to present pitches from a variety of industry voices seeking to be the featured keynote at our 16th annual The Beat Live event, taking place Dec. 5 in New York City.

Now it's time for you to choose your favorite.

Open to all subscribers, your votes will determine one keynote speaker and a few runners-up who will participate on The Views panel at our event. Our poll also asks readers to choose the recipients of our annual Readers' Choice awards of the most-admired travel suppliers, which will be presented at The Beat Live.

Below are the keynote proposals, presented alphabetically by last name. Please review and then vote for your favorite, as well as for our annual Readers' Choice awards, here.

Why We (Really) Travel For Business And The Elusive ROI
Eric Bailey
Global Director, Employee Travel & Devices
Companies are leveraging new criteria to justify trips and T&E budgets as we wait for AI to provide a definitive answer on the return on investment of corporate travel. Two years into the concept of purposeful travel, we will dig into drivers for travel moving forward and how some companies will be able to thrive with fewer trips, while others will keep their employees on the road. While there is a bit of a bifurcation happening, everyone is looking to add more value, per-dollar, per-hour and per-CO2 kilogram, on what we spend on travel. We will all benefit from a more conscientious approach to travel. Once we understand who needs to travel and why, we can pull in additional data to measure each trip and its impact on the bottom line or the impact to company culture. 

The Ticking Time-Bomb In Travel Sustainability
Jean Belanger
Co-Founder & CEO
Cerebri AI
Global CO2 emissions total 50 billion metric tons annually. Today, the assumption in the West is that we'll all share equally in "fixing" the CO2 problem and spend the required "trillions" needed. Major population centers in the world disagree. We need to prioritize our spending toward the biggest, cheapest and fastest cuts in emissions we can—right now, not in 2050. Travel is not the first thing we should focus on for the "fix." Because of jet fuel's compelling power-to-weight ratio, 1,000 pounds of jet fuel yields about 14 times more power than 1,000 pounds of batteries. Air travel is booming, with expectations that the global fleet of aircraft could double within decades. It could take 10,000 new SAF refineries to get to Net Zero—a trillion-dollar "fix" just for the refineries alone. We must prepare for the possibility that travel will not meet its CO2 targets—notwithstanding virtue signaling of recent years. Since travel likely will be a lagging industry in reducing CO2, what will probably happen is more fees, carbon offsets, taxes and cries to restrict or regulate travel. The challenges are enormous and likely to cause significant disruptions moving forward. We spent the past 18 months building a CO2 calculator for air travel. It's time to explore the possibilities.

Ushering In A New Frontier: The Connected Travel Experience
Robert Buckman
Senior Vice President, Solutions Consulting, Americas
Imagine a travel experience where the end-to-end journey is fully automated, fully informative, with event-triggered data flows intelligently communicating across disparate systems allowing real-time information and service delivery. While we have seen recent advances in retailing, biometrics and self-service automation, the promise of the truly connected experience has yet to be realized. What are the barriers, and what will it take to provide truly optimized travel experiences? Like Fintech's transformation in the banking industry, how can we break silos, leverage technology and data to create a more connected ecosystem for the benefit of travelers while navigating data privacy concerns and gaining customer trust? I'll share my views on how travel technology can evolve to enable seamless, intelligent communication across airports, border control, airlines, hotels, ground transport and payments systems. With open APIs and standards for data and events, information flows can vastly improve traveler experience. Are we ready to unlock the next wave of innovation and value creation? Let's discuss what we should expect from the travel ecosystem, how we can work together towards a connected and integrated community of technology platforms—and challenge our industry to meet those expectations.

Beyond Bamboo Straws: Why Climate 'Lip Service' Is Damaging Net Zero Targets For Meetings And Events
Ian Cummings
Global Head
CWT Meetings & Events
Many corporate meetings and events planners are guilty of greenwashing: Seeing sustainability policy as a mere branding exercise, ticking boxes with generic promises in social channels, offering tree-planting schemes and bamboo straws, and applauding an event for reducing single-use plastics and printed materials. Meanwhile, attendees—and the steaks on their dinner plates—flew halfway around the world to get there. We have the tools and data to measure the environmental impact of meetings, set goals and make better decisions, but tackling corporate culture and perceptions that are entrenched in businesses is the first hurdle. At many companies, meetings and events continue to sit beyond the remit of travel and procurement teams, and they aren't managed with the same rigor as transient business travel—often for fear of having the fun and creativity sucked out of them. In this keynote, I'll show why many companies' net-zero targets will never be met with their current approach and how the answer lies in cultural change that starts at the top.

Can 'Doughnut Economics' Create A Sustainable Future For Business Travel?
Julien Etchanchu
Senior Director, Sustainability Practice
Ever since sustainability became a focal point of the business travel industry, we have been inundated with catchy buzzwords and quick fixes designed to provide temporary solutions. But what if, to make a real impact, we needed to shift our whole mindset and challenge the status quo? In business, success is measured by monetary value and growth, but we often fail to account for external factors like pollution, inequality and environmental degradation. So, if we want to do business and combat climate change at the same time, we need a new model for measuring success that considers both economic and environmental factors to encourage real change. In fact, it's possible this model already exists in the environmentally focused economic theory known as Doughnut Economics. This groundbreaking theory prioritizes economic development without sacrificing social and environmental responsibility. Learn how this model can be used to transform the way we approach sustainability in business travel and help us leave behind outdated strategies that have held us back from meaningful progress.

Deep Impact: Surviving Business Travel's Extinction-Level Event
Ron Glickman
Vice President, North America
A storm is gathering. One that has the potential to rock the business travel industry to its foundations. That's being heralded by mounting regulatory pressure from international governments and a slow-building sea change in the transportation landscape. For those with the foresight to change, the spoils are vast, and they will be lauded for their vision and instrumental role in transforming the traveler experience coupled with AI, catalyzing travel's decarbonization and ushering in a new age of connected travel. While those who find themselves on the wrong side of history will quickly fade into obscurity, with extinction all but inevitable. Want to know how we survive business travel's transformation? Vote for this keynote and find out.

Disparate Solutions: Bad Software In Disguise
Nina Herold
Chief Operations Officer
Business travel can be enjoyable when the experience is smooth and painless from end to end. Unfortunately, sometimes bad software gets in the way. This presentation will analyze the real-world issues that stem from disparate solutions and how stitching tools together can affect travelers, admins and finance teams through tangible example scenarios. The conversation also will delve into the primary benefits of vertical integration and how having an all-in-one solution lowers the total cost of ownership and increases the quality of the product and service for users. I will unpack how end-to-end solutions save employees time and boost companywide productivity and morale by delivering an experience employees want to use.

AI & ChatGPT For Travel: Sherlock Holmes Or His Arch-Nemesis Professor Moriarty?
Sam Hilgendorf
Chief Information Officer
Fox World Travel
Is ChatGPT, with its breakthrough in generative AI, a friend or foe for business travel? Prepare for an intellectual battle as I delve into the potential and threats of AI. Picture ChatGPT as our brilliant AI hero, Sherlock Holmes, effortlessly solving complex travel puzzles faster than you can say, "Elementary, my dear Watson." From optimizing itineraries to analyzing market trends, could we have our very own master detective at our side? Or is ChatGPT just the villainous Moriarty in disguise, lurking in the shadows, fueling our fears and plotting to replace us all. Perhaps one cannot exist without the other. Together, we will explore this duality of AI, and its potential to revolutionize our industry. Get ready to uncover the captivating relationship between human ingenuity and AI's extraordinary capabilities.

Can Third-Party Air Distribution Be Saved?
Jeff Klee
Demand is high. Capacity is constrained. Emboldened airlines who might be tempted to overplay their hands are openly questioning the importance of managed travel business and distribution through indirect channels. Meanwhile, entitled intermediaries seem to care only that their cheese not be moved. It’s a combustible combination that could play out in many different ways, but none will look anything like the last 40 years. The post-EDIFACT era won’t simply swap GDS-EDIFACT for GDS-NDC. The rest will go, too—the bloated, complicated, expensive infrastructure around third-party distribution that airlines maintain in parallel with their direct merchandising platforms. This will be a conversation about value: where is it being created, where is it not, and can we find ways to create more of it going forward? And what about travelers and companies? Is anyone looking out for them? Having rejected the easy way, now the industry will have to face the hard way, with all the uncertainty and hope that comes with that. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we may not have reached the end of third-party air distribution. We may not have even reached the beginning of the end. But we’ve finally reached the end of the beginning.

What Is The 'Delivery Time' And 'Return Policy' Equivalent In The Travel Industry? It Isn't A Three-Letter Acronym
John Morhous
Chief Experience Officer, Corporate Brands
Flight Centre Travel Group
Amazon didn't revolutionize online shopping by having the best interface, products or vendors. They focused on two customer pain points: delivery time and return policy. While they built warehouses and acquired Whole Foods, our industry stayed fixated on the latest trend or three-letter acronym. Whether NDC or ChatGPT, there's always another "thing" to be on top of, taking up conference talk time and consuming more lines in expanding RFPs. Despite all the "things" we endlessly try to solve, traveling still sucks. We've lost touch with real customer pain points. Airports are unruly; planes are full; status isn't what it used to be; many hotels won't even change your sheets anymore. Newsflash: We're no longer in pandemic-recovery mode. This is the new reality. Talking about the latest "innovation" is starting to feel like Groundhog's Day. I want to talk about something we all need: empathy. For a parent taking a flight home for their child's game; for the gate agent telling a family they misconnected; for the travel manager proving value to a company that views travel as a line item, not a personal experience, empathy can revolutionize travel in a way no acronym can.

Mastering The Art Of Bleisure
Tina Richardson
Learning & Performance, Commercial Operations Support
Corporate travel has changed big-time in recent years, and for the good. Increasingly, travelers are embracing business trips with a new frame of mind: How can I make the most of time at my destination? Incorporating a little pleasure into business—that's how. Say hello to bleisure. This funky mix of business and leisure means travel planners must be on their toes if they're going to stand out. It all boils down to three key elements: consistently adding value, offering meaningful suggestions and proactively solving dilemmas. Sounds easy, right? It is, with the right approach. Agents who've mastered this art will think differently when proposing options, stepping away from "order-taker" mode and using all the tools at their disposal to drum up some good, old-fashioned excitement. Have the right conversations at the right time and use your knowledge and experience to your advantage, whether you're a newcomer to the industry or a veteran.

The Future Of Corporate Travel: Greater Automation Or Greater Fragmentation?
Norm Rose
Travel Tech Consulting
2023 has been a dramatic period of change in corporate travel. As distribution changes become clear and AI is introduced, what will corporate travel look like in next two to five years? This keynote will address how business practices will change based on emerging technologies and evolving distribution practices: Will NDC lead to unique content in specific channels? How will direct hotel chain connectivity change the hotel sourcing process? What will be the role of the TMC in the future? How will Generative AI and autonomous AI Agents change the booking process for business travel? What will be the impact of Web3/blockchain on corporate travel management? I'm a 41-year industry veteran with work as both a supplier and a buyer. Over the last 28 years as a consultant, I've helped the industry track and recognize the impact of technology-driven change—beginning with the Internet, followed by mobile and social media. Technology is at the precipice of a new era in decentralized computing, individual controlled identity and enhanced automation through AI. This keynote will take into account the full breadth of industry changes online, on mobile and through new decentralized networks to bring a holistic picture of the coming changes in the overall travel industry and its specific impact on business travel.

The Cost Of Doing Nothing Is Too Damn High
Hansini Sharma
Practice Lead, Corporate Travel
Acquis Consulting Group
How many times have you heard someone say, "travel just moves a little slower?" This statement is equivalent to doing nothing. Are we OK turning our back on progress? How do we make sure our industry foundation doesn't crack amid rapid technological and cultural transformation in the world? Artificial Intelligence. ChatGPT. Virtual Assistants. Customer Experience. Digital Transformation. Sustainability. DEI. Carbon Emissions. The rate of innovation and change is happening at a fast clip. We spend a lot of time thinking about the pieces of our travel program, but what happens when we ignore the mechanics of it all? Are we willing to risk finding out? We need to come together to move forward, take responsibility and make our infrastructure stand the test of time. We have to invest in our travel value chain across the board—in people, technology and resources—and lean into cross-collaboration in a way we may have considered competition in the past. Because doing nothing is the most expensive way to figure out that it's too late to catch up.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a pitch. Now, the readers decide. Please vote here for your favorite.