Business travel is back and growing fast

Business travelers shelled out more cash in the fourth quarter of 2010 than they did in any other since the recession kicked in. The latest report from the Global Business Travel Association shows an increased spend of $4.2 billion over the previous quarter. For all of 2010, business travel spending ticked up 3.2 percent – far ahead of the 2.3 percent originally predicted.

Now, hopes for 2011 are even higher. Business travel spending is expected to grow 6.9 percent this year, relative to an original forecast of 5 percent.

According to Michael W. McCormick, GBTA Executive Director and COO, “These are very heartening signs. 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.” He added, “Thanks to increasing corporate confidence, companies are investing more in business travel which will further stimulate business activity and economic growth.”Increased travel prices are part of the reason for this, the GBTA explained. The association noted that “[r]ate 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 percent to 4 percent for 2011.”

Some of the gains are also coming from business travelers crossing borders. Lat year, international travel spending climbed 17.3 percent year over year, with another 7.9 percent expected this year. International travel growth is expected to outpace the overall trend.

Finally, good vibes are contributing to the increased flow of cash. McCormick said, “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.”