Road warriors delivered last year, business travel coming back

business travelLast year is closed, but we’re still sorting out what it all means, especially as the data continues to come in. For business travel, 2010 was expected to be a turning point, as corporations shook off the aguish associated with the global financial crisis and started to send employees back out on the road again. Following a 14.1 percent nosedive in business travel in 2009, 2010 appears to have delivered a small up-tick, as expected.

According to the National Business Travel Association, the corpie folks spent 2.3 percent more on travel last year than they did in 2009, which was a truly dismal year. Spending levels are still below what we saw in 2008, consequently, but there’s more recovery in front of us: the NBTA forecasts a 5 percent increase in business travel spending in 2011.

Michael W. McCormick, NBTA Executive Director and COO said, “Our research is ringing in the new year with reason for cautious optimism. Based on the way 2010 began, the year wrapped up better than expected thanks to a number of factors including higher than expected GDP, stronger exports and very strong corporate profits. These trends are translating into greater business travel spending as companies invest in travel to drive revenues and compete aggressively in a recovering economic environment.”
He added, “International outbound travel in particular remains strong and should continue to grow through 2012 as American companies seek opportunity in robust export markets,” continuing, “2011 should also see a welcome recovery in the group travel market after a number of very difficult years. Companies are once again recognizing the value of face to face meetings with customers, prospects, partners and colleagues to build relationships and set the stage for top-line growth.”

International business spending was the tip of the spear last year, with outbound U.S. business travel spending estimated to have climbed 16.9 percent last year. In 2009, it fell 32.1 percent. Again, last year’s estimated gains weren’t enough to recapture all that was lost 2009, but it is a pretty solid starting point. According to the NBTA statement revealed to Gadling, look for a smaller gain in 2011, only 3.2 percent, because of a weakening dollar.

For the first quarter of 2011, the NBTA expects $58.8 billion to be spent on business travel in the United States, up slightly from $58.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010. This is also 6.7 percent above the $55.1 billion spent in the first quarter of last year. Look for business travelers to take 109.9 million trips in the first quarter of this year, up 8.6 percent from 101.2 million in the first quarter of last year.

Business travelers are coming back, which is great news for the airlines. After all, this is where they make their cash. Maybe if these deep pockets start to throw a bit more money at air travel, we’ll have a shot at holding off the introduction of more airline fees!

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