< PrevNext > Organization Overhauler Suzanne Neufang, Global Business Travel Association CEO By Elizabeth West / December 12, 2022 / Contact Reporter Share The year 2020 wasn’t a good one for the Global Business Travel Association. On top of careening into a global pandemic that would decimate business travel for two solid years—and would be the quick undoing of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives—GBTA was headed for a second and simultaneous upheaval. Layoffs came in the wake of the pandemic, then accusations of misconduct, expletive-laden emails. Then, a summertime investigation and ultimate departure of the CEO, despite being officially cleared of misconduct, but not before sponsors, supporters and volunteers suspended their involvement with the organization and a major revenue-generating convention was scuttled. Crisis communications managers swooped in to stanch the bleeding. An external consultancy performed an organizational effectiveness assessment. A beloved airline executive came out of retirement to bridge the leadership gap. But who would take over? Who would dare?As it turns out, it was a name the industry knew well. And she’s proven as steely as the organization could hope. Former ACTE board of directors president Suzanne Neufang joined the organization as CEO in February 2021 and looks to have brought much-needed organizational deftness to GBTA. In the first three months she presided over a bylaws review and voting process to change bylaws, including the reintroduction of board member term limits, which have now taken some effect. She brokered relationships, reined in the loudest detractors and reached out to volunteers—even those who had soured on the organization in prior years. In the past 12 months under Neufang’s leadership, the GBTA team has pulled off two global conventions in the United States and two European conferences, thanks to pandemic interference that compressed timelines. She relaunched the GBTA foundation and aligned the WINiT women in travel organization, the Ladders mentorship program and a new Sustainability Leadership Council under the 501c3 nonprofit arm, while separating that from the 501c6 that runs the convention, industry lobbying and committee volunteerism. She persuaded some big names to engage more closely with the organization through the foundation by bringing their passion surrounding “people” and “planet” initiatives to the table: Amex GBT CEO Paul Abbott leads the foundation as chair; United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby is serving as well, alongside major industry influencers like Festive Road managing partner Caroline Strachan and progressive travel buyers like JLL global director of travel Leslie Andrews. Some big names have also left their leadership positions at GBTA. Former Best Western executive Dorothy Dowling has departed the overall organization’s board of directors and WINiT. The move left a vacancy at the top of the Allied Leadership Council this year. Marriott International’s Tammy Routh stepped into that gap.A review of GBTA’s 2020 federal tax forms showed an organization in the red, due to canceled events and payouts to the previous CEO. Those forms were published with a rider from GBTA that pandemic-induced insurance payouts in 2021 had covered much of the organization’s shortfalls. That remains to be verified in future disclosures. But Neufang came to the organization with promises of transparency and communication. She opened the GBTA convention in San Diego by introducing a new brand for the association, “Many Voices. One Purpose.” It’s a signifier of a new beginning ushered in through the hard work of the organization under Neufang’s leadership. The next steps, however, will be just as crucial.