GBTA Expects 2011 Spending to Increase by 6.9 Percent.

At least there is some good economic news. Business travel spending and volume grew at stronger-than-expected rates in the fourth quarter of 2010 and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Business Travel Index (BTI) reached its highest level since the recession began in 2008, offering positive signs for the performance of the U.S. economy going forward. New GBTA Foundation research shows that increasing business travel spending is a leading indicator of future job growth—meaning more good news may be ahead on the employment front.

The fourth quarter of 2010 showed the strongest seasonally adjusted quarter-over-quarter business travel growth since the recession began. For the year, total U.S. spending on business travel grew by 3.2 percent—up substantially from the 2.3 percent for the year forecast previously. Business travel spending in 2011 is now expected to be even stronger than estimated last quarter, advancing by 6.9 percent for the year—up from the 5 percent growth forecast previously.

“Business travel spending is coming back at robust levels, indicating the shape of things to come—namely more travelers on the road, an improving economy, and a positive environment for continued job growth,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO.

The findings were released today in the latest Business Travel Quarterly Outlook – United States from the Global Business Travel Association Foundation, the education and research arm of the GBTA, and were sponsored by Visa.

The BTI provides a way to distill market performance and the outlook for business travel into a single metric that can be tracked over time. Initially forecast at 108 for the fourth quarter of 2010, the BTI has been revised upward to 112 for the fourth quarter of 2010, its highest point since the beginning of the global recession in the third quarter of 2008.

This revision is equal to $1.9 billion more business travel spending than previously forecast. The increase of nine points over the third quarter of 2010 BTI, which came in at 103, means there was a total $4.2 billion increase in business travel spending between the third quarter of 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2010.

The rise in the BTI was driven by stronger economic growth and the expectation of slightly higher prices in following quarters. For the first quarter of 2011, the BTI is projected to fall slightly to 110, a small cyclical reduction from a stronger-than-expected fourth quarter but still well above 106, where the BTI stood in Q1 2010.

With economic improvement and more business travelers hitting the road, travel prices are also recovering from their sharp declines during the recession. Rate analysis based on an aggregate of airfare, lodging, meals, ground transportation and car rentals shows travel prices in 2010 increased by 2.5 percent and are projected to increase between 2 to 4 percent for 2011.

International markets continue to present new opportunities for company growth and remain top of mind for many executives as they look to maximize this potential. Final numbers for 2010 show a growth of 17.3 percent in international travel spend for the year. International outbound travel is expected to continue to grow by 7.9 percent in 2011, proceeding at a faster rate than overall business travel growth.

Also in line with better-than-expected fourth quarter results and rising overall business travel levels, group travel spend grew in 2010 by 6.0 percent and is expected to advance by 7.0 percent in 2011.

“Group travel, events and conferences are large expenses with long lead times. Companies lacked the confidence and clarity to make these longer-term investments when the economy was struggling, but these increases are further evidence that companies are feeling much better about investing in business travel and face-to-face meetings once again,” said McCormick.




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