Belt & Road and Business Travel Globalisation

CITS American Express Global Business Travel – a solid force behind the B&R project

A keynote and panel discussion at ITB China centred on “The Belt and Road Initiative – Powering the Business Travel Globalisation”. We asked Kevin Tan, General Manager of American Express Global Business Travel and China International Travel Service (CITS) to tell us more about the project.


The Belt and Road Initiative encompasses a comprehensive network of infrastructure grids and economic ties connecting China to Asia, Europe, Africa and the wider world. This grand initiative will drive economic growth and efficiency, social welfare and customer satisfaction in all the members involved. We believe business confidence is growing as a result of this Initiative: according to our CBTF Barometer survey, business travel budgets are on the rise as business confidence grows, with 31% of Chinese companies surveyed expecting travel budgets to increase over the next 12 months. Many companies with international ambitions, including Chinese ones, are trying to seize the opportunities created by the Initiative. This as well provide opportunities for CITS American Express Global Business Travel (CITS GBT). As a leading global travel management company, one of the major strengths of our company is our worldwide footprint in almost 140 countries and the huge amount of business travel services we delivered to clients – over US$30 bn each year. This gave us a profound insights of business travel and enables us to provide a seamless service experience through our global network.
Many companies will need to evolve the design and operation of their business travel programmes to accommodate the needs of a much more complex and geographically dispersed company structure, as their operations progress offshore, as part of the B&R Initiative. As an expert in business travel, it is our duty to let the business community know that the globalization of a business travel program is not as straightforward as one may think and can be a daunting task for even the most experienced travel manager. Considerations range from legal to operational, from people to change management, from diversified local needs to standard needs, etc. All aspects are all to be balanced and adequately addressed to create a cohesive and structured global travel programme.

Please tell us more about CITS American Express Global Business Travel (CITS GBT), and why you are so solidly behind the Belt and Road project.

CITS GBT is the first global travel management company in China and a joint venture of two great companies from China and the United States. By combining the rich expertise of American Express Global Business Travel –a company with more than 100 years of history powering business through travel around the world – and the unparalleled local insight of the Chinese market by China International Travel Service (CITS) – into one joint venture, CITS GBT is in a unique position to provide customers with best practice on a global scale and unique local insight.
Since our establishment in 2002, CITS GBT’s business in China is not only about selling products and services, but also bringing over 100 years’ experience of innovation, precious insights rendered from an annual USD 30-billion revenue and all the big-data gathered, a global network of nearly 140countries, and other best TMC practices to help the business travel sector in China develop.

Because of who we are and what we do, we see the big potential in the Belt and Road Initiative, which will not only rejuvenate ancient trade routes, but also further open up markets and accelerate economic integration on a transparent, equal and innovative playing ground. It is a signal that China is on the way to become an important economic entity in the world.

You are responsible for setting the strategic direction of CITS GBT and overseeing the execution of this strategy. What does your strategic roadmap look like for the coming years?

Our focus at CITS American Express Business Travel has always been to help our customers to drive improvements in their travel programs, and to advance the business travel sector overall in China, through technology, local expertise and global best practice. We are very proud of the contributions we have made thus far to advancing corporate travel in China and look forward to shaping the concept of intelligent business travel in this rapidly changing environment.
We have a well-established foundation with the help of the two mother companies and have built a strong reputation in China since 2002. Through this strong partnership, we are well positioned to understand local needs, leverage our global network and provide the most appropriate services accordingly.

We are noticing that Chinese companies – both state owned and privately owned – are revisiting and refining their policies regarding business travel to modernize and streamline the underlying processes (procurement, RFP, vendor selection, etc.). The objective of this isto increase transparency, improve efficiency, and strengthen collaboration and integration with their vendors. This is a symbol that the Chinese economy is upgrading and, in this process, China will consolidate its position as the world’s number one business travel market for years to come. CITS GBT is determined to facilitate this process with all our experience, insight and resources. Back to the basics, we believe in aligning our customers’ company objectives with the business travel solution we can design and offer. We work with each individual customer and develop bespoke, practical, scalable and smart solutions based on their unique company situations and objectives, whether that be focused on cost-containment, data and insight, traveller servicing and preferences, or a combination of all these elements.
CITS GBT’s goal is to create a seamless customer experience across offline, online and mobile channels. At the centre of this kind of experience is the respect and care for the travellers– for whom we are constantly redesigning products and services. For example, we launched the first AI robot in the business travel industry in China, aiming to improve user experience, support companies to increase travel policy compliance rate.

How important will the Belt and Road initiative become in coming years and who stands to benefit the most from it?

The Belt and Road Initiative represents a cooperation model. The B&R Initiative will further open up markets and accelerate economic integration on a transparent, equal and innovative ground. It will contribute driving economic growth and efficiency, social welfare and customer satisfaction in all the members involved.

The Belt and Road Initiative is amongst the most aspiring geo-economic vision in world history. China is outreaching to the world in a massive scale, by strengthening hard infrastructure with new roads, railways and ports, soft infrastructure with trade agreements, and cultural ties with scholarships and personnel exchange programs.
To my understanding, it is great proposition with a theme of “connect, create and collaborate”. It is not only for the benefit of China, but also a response to the needs for investment and development of the members enrolled. That’s why the Initiative quickly spans some 70 countries and regions and covers more than two-thirds of the world’s population in only 5 years. It is certainly a blessing to China as well as the world. With our global footprint, leading technologies and solutions, a comprehensive portfolio and strong foundation in China, CITS GBT is well-positioned to cooperate with our clients and partners adapt to Belt and Road regions in innumerable business fields and contribute to making the BRI a success for all involved.

What are your thoughts about ITB China, now in its second year? What makes this show different?

ITB China is a unique B2B travel event focused on the Chinese Travel Market. In this event we have the chance to share our experience and the most extensive business travel insights in China with experts and customers. ITB also provides the best quality conference program, outstanding exhibitors, various networking events and a unique state of the art matchmaking system, in order to help industry players network and catch up the trends of the industry.