The BTN Group staged its 10th Annual Business Travel Hall of Fame induction ceremony and dinner on Monday, December 6th at the St. Regis Hotel New York. After a year's hiatus, the invitation-only event swept through the St. Regis with a sense of euphoria among more than 200 of the travel industry's leading executives, friends, clients and industry competitors. They all came to pay tribute to the class of 2021 inductees, as they reflected on their accomplishments and looked to the future of business travel.
2021 BTN Group Hall of Fame inductees
The BTN Group established the Business Travel Hall of Fame in 2011 to recognize the lifetime achievements of leaders in the business travel industry. While the first several years exclusively recognized suppliers, the BTN Group in 2015 inaugurated the first business travel buyer into the ranks, emphasizing the power of the corporate travel buyer to influence the industry and drive innovation and change through partnerships. The balance was struck and, each year, the BTN Group now recognizes achievements on both sides of the business travel equation, celebrating the vital interactions between buyers and suppliers that animate this industry and push it to thrive.
“The BTN Group is thrilled to recognize these business travel leaders in 2021,” said BTN Group Editorial Director Elizabeth West. “Their vision for our industry will continue to play out as business travel and business travel management recovers in 2022. The leadership of our awardees has set the stage for progress and, in many cases, has already shown us a path forward.”
“The BTN Group is thrilled to recognize these business travel leaders. Their vision for our industry will continue to play out as business travel and business travel management recover in 2022."
David Kong, outgoing President & CEO, BWH Hotel Group: Under David Kong's leadership, BWH Hotel Group has expanded its portfolio to 18 distinct brands in every chain scale segment from economy to luxury and offering experiences from traditional hotels to extended stay and boutique/lifestyle hotels.
David has positioned the company as a frontrunner in innovation, being named one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in the world by Fast Company in 2018. His achievements were further honored in 2019 with Hotel Interactive (USA) and GuestLab Magazine (Italy) both naming David Innovator of the Year. Prior to BWH Hotel Group, he held leadership positions with KPMG Consulting and Hyatt Hotels.
David is a University of Hawaii graduate, and also completed the Executive Development Program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. He was the past Chairman of the American Hotel & Lodging Association and currently serves on the AHLA Executive Committee and the AHLA Foundation Board of Trustees.
"This industry has been really good to me. It's enabled me to dream boldly about my future and to pursue those dreams without hesitation."
Mike Premo, past President & CEO of ARC: As president and chief executive officer from June 2011 to December 2020, Mike led ARC’s strategy in bringing airlines and travel agencies together to do more business and do it more efficiently. He and his executive team oversaw operations for ARC’s accreditation and settlement work, as well as its rapidly growing data business and omnichannel retailing solutions, including ARC’s first outside investments in Blockskye, Traxo, 3Victors and nuTravel.
During Mike’s tenure as CEO, ARC’s revenues grew nearly 50 percent and equity grew 570 percent. Both the strong balance sheet and Mike’s work to establish strong relationships with its agency customers and airline owners were critical to ARC’s ability to deliver services effectively during the unique challenges of the COVID pandemic.
Before joining ARC in 2006, Mike was the senior vice president of global network for TQ3 Travel Solutions and held senior executive positions at Navigant International, TQ3’s parent company. He also served as the president of SatoTravel from 1990 to 1999, oversaw its development as an effective competitor for government travel contracts and launched its entry into corporate travel.
In retirement, he continues to be engaged in the industry, now serving on the board of directors for Onriva, as well as advisory boards at Fareportal and Blockskye.
"We bring people together, advance understanding, move critical goods and so much more. It's an industry that we can and should be legitimately proud to be a part of. I know I am. "
Bill Tech, former President & CEO, Travel andTransport: Bill joined Travel and Transport (now Corporate Travel Management North America) in 1987 as a regional vice president in Chicago. In 1992, he moved to Omaha to assume the role of vice president of administration. He was later named executive vice president in 1997, and in 1998, Bill was named president and CEO.
As CEO, Bill oversaw Travel and Transport’s expansion, including key acquisitions, record revenue growth and a nearly 300 percent increase in employees. After 27 years of service to Travel and Transport, Bill retired in December 2014. He remained involved in the company as the chairman of the board and was named chairman-emeritus in 2019 for his many contributions to the company.
Bill served on the board of directors for Radius Travel for many years and was the chairman of Radius for more than 10 years. He was appointed to the board of trustees of The Travel Institute in 2002. BTN named Bill to its 2012 list of 25 Most Influential executives in business travel, citing his foresight in the acquisition of New York-based Ultramar Travel Management.
A passionate philanthropist, Bill was also involved with the American Cancer Society, Boys Town, the Knights of Aksarben, the Omaha Sister Cities Association and The Salvation Army. He also served on multiple Omaha-area boards, including the boards of the Knights of Aksarben Foundation, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and First Westroads Bank.
Bill died in 2019 after a long battle with cancer. The business travel industry honors his accomplishments and his remembers his friendship.
"Travel and Transport was a 50 year old company when Bill became CEO in 1998. The industry was changing so fast. We had to be aggressive. By the time Bill retired in 2017, Travel and Transport was the 7th largest corporate travel agency in the industry."
Rita Visser, Director Global Travel Sourcing & GPO for Oracle: Rita Visser's career in travel spans more than 25 years. Starting at Rosenbluth, where she fell into travel, she learned the workings of the industry from the inside out.
Today, she oversees all of Oracle’s travel procurement activities and in her GPO role, she sets strategies that result in positive benefits for Oracle and its travelers.
Rita has been involved in many industry initiatives, teams and committees including the Global Business Travel Association Technology Committee, acting as chair, as well as the GBTA Aviation Committee. She currently serves as a direct member at large for GBTA; she is a founding member and current board member of WINiT. She also serves on the North America travel manager advisory group for the New Distribution Capability Initiative as well as number of supplier advisory boards.
Rita has been the keynote speaker at a number of GBTA Chapter events. She recently contributed to revamping GBTA’s bylaws, which will help govern the association and its practices into the future. She is known to ask the tough questions of both sides of difficult industry issues and has a reputation as a fair and impartial problem solver. She works closely with peers and suppliers to make positive changes within the travel industry.
Rita and her husband have three children and live in Fargo, N. Dakota, where she is a passionate advocate and volunteer in her community.
"Those of you in a position now to turn around and give back, the impact you will make with a smile or a job opportunity or [by] saying 'Hey, I think you can do this' - it's an impact that can last for generations."
In addition to recognizing the accomplishments of the past, the BTN Group also puts the Hall of Fame spotlight on potential industry stars of the future by awarding scholarships to promising students. This year, scholarships were awarded to students at New York University and The Pennsylvania State University.
“We’re very proud to recognize some of the most accomplished executives in our business, and equally proud to support the next generation of rising stars,” said BTN Group Executive Vice President and Group Publisher Louis Magliaro.
“We’re very proud to recognize some of the most accomplished executives in our business, and equally proud to support the next generation of rising stars.”
Reggie Aggarwal, Cvent ('19)
Mary Bastrentaz, Accenture ('15)
Gordon Bethune, Continental Airlines ('11)
Gloria Bohan, Omega World Travel ('17)
JP Carey, Carey International ('17)
Curt Carlson, Carlson Companies ('12)
Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Carlson Companies ('14)
Bob Coggin, Delta Air Lines ('11)
Ralph Colunga, SAP Concur ('19)
Bob Crandall, American Airlines ('11)
John Davis III, Pegasus ('16)
Sir Maurice Flanagan, British Airways ('19)
Ed Gilligan, American Express ('11)
John D. Hertz, Hertz ('15)
Cindy Heston, Anthem ('16)
Christie Hicks, Starwood ('18)
Barron Hilton, Hilton Hotels Corporation ('17)
Danny Hood, BCD Travel ('13)
Max Hopper, Sabre Group ('14)
Alfred Kahn, Civil Aeronautics Board ('11)
Jeff Katz, Sabre ('11)
Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines ('12)
Mick Lee, WINiT ('18)
Jonathan Linen, American Express ('15)
Mike Leven, Holiday Inn Worldwide ('15)
Susan Lichtenstein, Cisco ('17)
Bill Marriott, Marriott International ('12)
Lord Colin Marshall, British Airways ('13)
Frank X. McNamara, Diners Club ('16)
Andrew W. Menkes, Partnership Travel Consulting ('14)
David Neeleman, Azul, JetBlue, WestJet ('16)
Frank Olson, Hertz ('11)
Tom Pritzker, Hyatt Hotels ('18)
David Radcliffe, Hogg Robinson Group ('17)
Harold Seligman, Management Alternatives ('12)
Steve Singh, Concur ('11)
Randell Smith, Smith Travel Research ('13)
Jean-Cyril Spinetta, Air France-KLM Group ('14)
Fred Swaffer, Hewlett-Packard ('18)
Andy Taylor, Enterprise Holdings ('14)
Jonathan M. Tisch, Loews Corporation ('13)
John Fentener van Vlissingen, BCD Group ('12)
Joseph Vittoria, Avis ('13)
Michael Whitesage, Prism Group ('11)
Leo van Wijk, Air France-KLM Group ('15)