Suzanne Neufang is CEO of the Global Business Travel Association, the business travel and meetings trade organization headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. She oversees the association's mission to provide value in the form of community, learning and advocacy to industry members and partners worldwide. She is a transformation-focused executive who has successfully led teams and product/service innovation through times of change—"connecting dots" across geographies, functions, people and results. She's held leadership positions within the travel industry for the past 20 years including HRS, Sabre and Travelocity, as well as for tech and telecom industry giants Intuit, Verizon and GTE. Neufang and her husband live in New York City and have two grown sons. An avid traveler, she has visited nearly 40 countries in her professional and personal travels and flown nearly 3 million air miles.
LINKS & LIKES
(University of Hawaii Foundation, Aug. 9)
Neufang: I have a master's degree from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, where my husband and I lived for eight years after we got married. So the tragedy on Maui related to recent wildfires has broken our hearts. There is a long journey ahead for the people in and near Lahaina to feel like it's home again. Over a hundred people and major artifacts of Hawaiian history are forever lost. So is the sense of self of those who've survived. I know from having lived on Oahu for eight years that island living can be truly paradise, but it is particularly difficult at a time like this. With its economic reliance on travel and tourism—and so much housing in tourist-centric Lahaina completely destroyed by fire—the people of Maui really need our help now.
The Economic Losers In The New World Order
(The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 14)
Neufang: This long article lays out the emerging new world order of economic power within the race for chips, green technologies and other highly sought-after solutions. I was struck by how many countries mentioned in the article are on our 2023 GBTA Business Travel Index Top 15 list in terms of business travel spending. Yet many of those countries listed stand to be on the losing side of industrial and trade growth as the largest world economies retrench subsidies and investments from their global networks to bring those investments back closer to home. I'm reminded how history is cyclical. I'm hopeful for a global "Roaring Twenties effect" for the years remaining in the 2020s—for business travel but also for the other sectors within which our members work and for whom they manage travel programs. This article made me pause to reconsider what's at stake.
An Aggressive Passive Push For A Brooklyn Brownstone
(The New York Times, May 2)
Neufang: My favorite section of The New York Times Weekend Edition is the Real Estate section. My husband and I moved to New York City from Dallas almost nine years ago. And in such an expensive city to live and work, I find myself imagining what it would be like to live in different neighborhoods of this bustling metropolis. Fortunately, one of our two sons and his wife live in the city—he's an architect, and they're renovating their apartment in Brooklyn according to passive housing principles. So, I devour anything I can find on the topic and send it to him to see what he thinks. Usually I'm steeped in principles of aviation sustainability because that's often the biggest focus of policy makers around travel sustainability. But brick-and-mortar opportunities to "green" our planet bring it much closer to home (literally).
STORY TO WATCH
Neufang: To me, there's no more important story to watch than climate change. We need investment, solutions to be built, tried, failed, rebuilt, tried, and launched. Individually it's hard to have impact. But collectively and with our governments, we can work together to speed up collaboration, investment and innovation. Travel is a force for good in every way. We cannot afford to lose what we've gotten back post-Covid because our sector is one of the hardest to decarbonize.
My Paternal Grandfather
Neufang: He died in early 1987 and emigrated after World War I to the United States from northern Germany as a poor but ambitious farmer. And, as fate often happens, just a few weeks after he died, I met in the U.S. my German now-husband of 36 years, who grew up less than hour from where my grandfather had lived.
I would ask my grandfather so much more than I ever thought to ask him as a kid—about his motivations, hopes and fears as an immigrant; about what he gave up and what he felt he gained in his new country. I'd ask him about the journey (by ship) and what it was like being "processed" through Ellis Island. He always seemed so stern to me, but my dad loves to tell jokes. So I'd ask my grandfather about his favorite stories and jokes—and about the brother he lost in that first terrible war of the 20th century, and his mother whom he lost long before that. Back then, I didn't speak any of his native language, and he was a mediocre English speaker throughout his life. Now that my German is pretty good, I would converse with him in German to learn what he missed most from the old country—and what he couldn't have lived without in his new country.
Fortunately, I have gotten to know the subsequent family he left behind in Germany. But none of them were around when he made the decision to leave his home to seek more opportunities. Their links to him are weaker than my own. But in this world of global travel and dual nationality marriages, I am lucky to see the land that he grew up loving—and in my visits there in northern Germany, to also feel a kinship with my grandfather who left it behind but never forgot about it.
"The Ministry For The Future"
by Kim Stanley Robinson
Neufang: Published in 2020, author Jonathan Lethem called it "The best science-fiction nonfiction novel I've ever read." For me, reading it during Covid on the recommendation of now-GBTA Foundation staffer Bev Heinritz, it opened my eyes to (a) how everyone, yes everyone, will be affected by climate change if they're not already, and (b) the huge impact financing and associated global monetary leaders will have on bringing about ultimate solutions and new systems to combatting the climate crisis. It's science fiction and in some parts quite dismal—but as it progresses it feels more optimistic and, in some ways, so close to reality that it gave me hope that the world we want and planet we need to save are actually within reach.