U.S. -originated business travel spending is expected to grow 3.8 percent this year compared to 2009 despite expectations that economic and business travel growth slowed through the second half of 2010, according to the newly developed and first-ever quarterly business travel forecast.
Business Travel Quarterly Outlook – United States, from the NBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), and sponsored by VISA, found that business travel will continue to advance by 6.7 percent and 6.9 percent for 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The new report contains the first Business Travel Index (BTI), a headline measure of the current and projected level of business travel in the United States. At the last industry peak in late 2007, the NBTA BTI reached 120. Two years of the Great Recession left the BTI at 96, a decline of nearly 20 percent. The BTI has recovered to 106 currently and is projected to reach the level of the previous peak in late 2012.
Michael W. McCormick, NBTA Executive Director and COO, said, “Business travel within and from the United States has seen solid recovery after two long years of diminution. However, it is clear that companies are taking their time in shifting from the current cost-containment culture, and recovery will continue to ramp up slowly. We’re looking forward to the end of 2012 – when the industry should see a return to peak levels.”
The total number of U.S. business trips saw a sharp decline of 15.6 percent during the Great Recession from 511 million trips in 2007 to 431 million in 2010. The decline was driven in large part by the drop in transient business travel, comprising 60 percent of the total, as a result of tighter travel management, shortening trips, and some use of technological travel alternatives. However, through 2012, transient travel is expected to advance 31 percent as the economy continues to recover and travel restrictions are lifted.
International outbound corporate travel is and will continue to be a significant contributor to the overall increase in U.S. business travel spend. Through the second half of 2009 and into 2010, better corporate earnings and booming export markets saw the return of premium business travel in international outbound, and increases in trip volumes and higher costs drove international outbound business travel spending up 21.7 percent between 2009 Q4 and 2010 Q1.
McCormick added, “As U.S. firms take advantage of healthier demand and supply markets in developing economies and benefit from lower travel expenses in Europe as the dollar grows stronger, the upward momentum in international outbound business travel will continue through at least 2012.”