GBTA cancels 2020 convention

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On the heels of an investigation into CEO Scott Solombrino for alleged workplace misconduct and just days after appointing Dave Hilfman as interim CEO, the Global Business Travel Association board of directors announced the cancellation of the organization's 2020 convention, which was scheduled for November at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.  

In an email obtained by Business Travel News addressed to "colleagues and friends," the board called the decision "one of the most difficult decisions our association has ever faced. Please be aware that this announcement will be shared shortly with GBTA members and other important stakeholders."

The note went on to thank the state of Colorado, the city of Denver, the Colorado Convention Center and Visit Denver, the state's destination marketing organization, for "their significant assistance exploring all viable options for this year's convention." It went on to say the Colorado Convention Center no longer would be available Nov. 7 to 11 to host the event.

The state in April leased the convention center to construct a field hospital to take overflow patients, if needed, during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Denver News9, the state will retain the field hospital, which has yet to see any patients, in case of a second wave of Covid-19 this summer or fall. Some Covid-19 models for the state show a peak in late September. According to the News9 report, the state's lease runs through the end of the year.

It is unclear whether there will be any virtual option for the November conference, but the email did not seem to hold hope for an alternative, referencing only a 2021 convention when addressing GBTA's next steps.

"In the next few days, we will be contacting you with further information regarding next steps," it read. "Until then, we appreciate your patience with us regarding any decisions about this year or about your role in GBTA Convention 2021 set for Orlando from July 17 through July 21, 2021."

The letter did not offer information about refunds for sponsorships, exhibition space or registration, which many in the industry -- particularly suppliers -- have been waiting on.

The news of the GBTA's convention cancellation comes just two days after the business travel industry's other membership organization, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, announced it would cease operations, citing the dual devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic, which sank its 2020 conference that was slated for April in New York, along with security issues in Hong Kong that forced the organization to abandon its Asia conference last year.

Embroiled in the Solombrino investigation, having faced significant layoffs earlier in the year and with questions lingering about how to reform the organization -- all within the context of a global pandemic that has decimated the business travel industry -- GBTA will have much on its to-do list for the remainder of the year under the leadership of interim CEO Hilfman, whose tenure is reportedly set to last six months.

In closing, the board's letter asked for patience and support.

"By working together as we have in the past," it read, "we will navigate this situation safely and in the best way to move forward as an association."

Source: Business Travel News

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