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Industry Executives Debate Rising Costs At Summit

2/23/2007

INDUSTRY EXECUTIVES DEBATE RISING COSTS
OF BUSINESS TRAVEL AT SUMMIT

Best Western International, Southwest Airlines and the National Business Travel Association Offer Tips and Solutions to Manage Business Travel Costs

NEW YORK (February 23, 2007) Business travel costs are expected to reach new highs in 2007, as The American Express Business Travel Forecast indicates a three to six percent increase in U.S. economy airfares, and Smith Travel Research estimates the average hotel room rate will surge to $103 in 2007 up more than 11 percent since 2005. To address the issues impacting business travel costs, industry leaders from Southwest Airlines, Best Western International and the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) gathered in New York City earlier this week to discuss how businesses and business travelers can more efficiently cope with rising costs.

UNDERSTANDING AND MAKING VALUE WORK
Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western, emphasized the importance of utilizing hotels that save business travelers money by offering complimentary amenities essential to their stay. Since many road warriors use their hotel rooms as satellite offices, staying at locations that don’t tack on extra fees for must-have amenities such as high-speed Internet access will save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.

“Business travelers eager to trim costs are increasingly seeking accommodations that provide the most essential business-friendly amenities that won’t break the bank,” said Dowling. “Every Best Western offers free high-speed Internet access, free incoming faxes, free package delivery, free local calls (up to 30 minutes) and free long-distance access. Every Best Western hotel also offers either continental or full hot breakfast, with the majority of our properties offering this convenience at no additional cost.”

MANAGE COSTS WITH ONLINE CORPORATE BOOKING TOOLS
Businesses and business travelers alike track travel costs to identify ways to reduce or eliminate unnecessary expenses. Southwest Airlines marketing manager, Loretta Hohmann, said the company’s SWABIZ program, for example, offers a wide range of tools that give road warriors a way to efficiently plan, book and purchase their business travel needs.

“SWABIZ, which helps road warriors adhere to their company’s travel policies, has redefined how business travel is booked,” said Hohmann. “In addition, SWABIZ provides travel planners and managers a means to track and manage every dollar being spent on business travel, all at no cost.”

Best Western is set to launch a new portal Web site during the second quarter of 2007 that is expected to attract, qualify and retain business travelers who book 10 to 12 nights per year.

BENEFITS OF MANAGED TRAVEL
According to the NBTA’s 2007 Business Travel Forecast, nearly 68 percent of survey respondents expect their companies’ travelers to take more trips in 2007 compared to 2006. As a result, companies need to be smart about managing their travel spending habits, according to Bill Connors, NBTA executive director and chief operating officer.

“Think of managing travel expenditures the way you manage the purchase of office furniture,” Connors said. “Just as it doesn’t make good business sense for employees to choose their own desk or chair from an unmanaged list of vendors, it also isn’t smart for a company to operate without policies and parameters that need to be followed when traveling.”

For companies that already have travel management programs in place, costs can be reduced in a number of ways, according to Connors, including:

•strengthening compliance with corporate travel policies
•increasing the use of preferred online tools for booking travel
•reducing the number of preferred suppliers, thus leveraging increased volume to secure better prices
•booking fewer luxury hotels in favor of midscale properties

ABOUT BEST WESTERN INTERNATIONAL
Best Western International is THE WORLD'S LARGEST HOTEL CHAIN®, providing marketing, reservations and operational support to 4,200* independently owned and operated member hotels in 80* countries and territories worldwide. Founded in 1946, this iconic brand is host to approximately 400,000 worldwide guests each night. A pioneer within the industry, Best Western is recognized for its distinctive member-owned business model and diverse hotel portfolio. The company continues to innovate and enhance both the business and leisure travel experience. Since 2004, Best Western has served as the Official Hotel of NASCAR®. For more information or to make a reservation, please visit www.bestwestern.com.

*Numbers are approximate and can fluctuate.

ABOUT NBTA
The National Business Travel Association is the source for critical information on the business travel industry. For more than 35 years, NBTA has dedicated itself to the professional development of its members through advocacy, education and training, and networking opportunities. NBTA represents over 2,700 corporate and government travel managers and travel service providers, who collectively manage and direct more than $170 billion of expenditures within the business travel industry. For more on NBTA, visit www.nbta.org.

ABOUT SOUTHWEST AIRLINES
Southwest Airlines, the nation's largest carrier in terms of domestic passengers enplaned, currently serves 63 cities in 32 states. Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,100 flights a day and employs almost 32,000 people nationwide. Southwest Airlines was recognized for its top-notch service and low fares for the third consecutive year by Business Traveler Magazine. The magazine's 2004 "Annual Best in Business Travel Reader Survey" named Southwest as "Best Low Cost Carrier." The survey is conducted by independent research firm, Mediamark Research Inc., and is voted on by the magazine's business travel readers.