The Global Business Travel Association has named Suzanne Neufang its executive director, following a months-long search to fill the organization's top position. More than 130 candidates from around the world were reviewed by an independent search committee.
Neufang, who begins her new job on Feb. 24, takes over from Dave Hilfman, who has been serving as the organization's interim executive director since July 2020. Former director Scott Solombrino stepped down in July, following an investigation into workplace conduct allegations against him.
The appointment of Neufang represents an effort to unify GBTA's membership, not only on the heels of the controversial Solombrino's departure but also as a follow-up to the organization's acquisition of its former rival, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. Neufang was ACTE's board president from 2012 to 2014 and a board member from 2014 to 2018. She also served as ACTE's interim executive director during the summer of 2012.
"The independent search committee has provided GBTA with an exceptional leader for the future of our association and industry," said Bhart Sarin, director of corporate and North America procurement operations and travel at Ingredion, and is president of the GBTA board of directors. "Suzanne is unquestionably the visionary to lead business travel to a complete recovery in the years ahead. It will be a distinct privilege to support her as we complete our integration of GBTA and ACTE, and build on the momentum of the 'Ready. Safe. Travel.' campaign toward our annual convention in July."
Neufang has extensive executive experience in the industry, most recently as senior vice president, Americas, for HRS Global Hotel Solutions. Prior to that she worked for 10 years as an executive with Sabre Travel Network, GetThere and Travelocity, followed by a stint as CMO for the software giant Intuit. She has been an active GBTA member since 2005, in addition to her leadership roles with ACTE.
"It’s not a secret that business travel is at an historic low point as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but in crises we find opportunities to be bold and to excel," said Neufang. "Business travel has been down before and we have recovered — always coming back more technologically savvy, data-focused and globally connected. The key questions for me are when we as an industry will recover, and how we as GBTA can drive economic and industry recovery to be even faster."
Neufang said that leading GBTA would be a "pinnacle career opportunity," and she spoke to the future of the organization as well as the overall industry. “We need to emerge from this pandemic as a healthier, more transparent association, one with the strongest possible, globally focused foundation," she explained. "As an organization, I believe we can work together to provide more value, better education and research, and even more effective advocacy for our members and sponsors. I’m very much looking forward to working with the professional staff at GBTA – and the board, members, sponsors and regional partners – who have had a long track record of growth and success serving the business travel community."