Study: Despite Soft Spots, 2011 Global Business Travel Poised To Surpass $1 Trillion - Business Travel News

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Study: Despite Soft Spots, 2011 Global Business Travel Poised To Surpass $1 Trillion

August 31, 2011 - 04:15 PM ET

By David Jonas

Global business travel this year will jump 9.2 percent and surpass $1 trillion, according to a Global Business Travel Association Foundation study. That increase would follow an 8.4 percent bump during 2010, which more than offset a nearly 8 percent decline in 2009.

Sponsored by Visa and researched by Vantage Strategy, the study also projected five-year compound annual growth rate for global business travel of 6.5 percent, but observed the familiar dual recovery: healthy domestic growth and exports for developing countries, sluggish growth in developed economies. "The two-speed economic recovery is mirrored in the recovery of global business travel," according to the report's authors, who noted double-digit percentage growth in China and India, and 5 percent or less for the United States and large European countries, including those dragged down by sovereign debt troubles. "The two-speed nature of the global recovery will result in a dramatic divergence of business travel industry growth around the world. This will exacerbate the already-shifting global business travel market shares."

The study also explored business travel levels by industry, finding that "service industries that tend to be much more prevalent in developed economies such as business services and banking have cut T&E budgets more aggressively over the last few years; meanwhile, industries such as food processing, plastic manufacturing, paper, textiles and industrial machinery, more prevalent in the developing world, have seen strong growth over the last few years."

Overall, business travel growth, according to the report, has been driven by healthier corporate balance sheets and profits, global trade recovery that has "boosted international business trips," and travel price inflation, notably higher airfares and hotel room rates.

The GBTA Foundation's measure of global business travel spending, the Business Travel Index, this year is expected to hit 145. The index uses 2005 as its base year and 100 as its base measurement. The study predicted BTI would jump to 156 in 2012 and rise each year through 2015, when it is projected to reach 193.

The study characterized global business travel recovery as "particularly fragile," owing to potential oil price spikes, Europe's sovereign debt crisis, weak employment trends, inflation in developing economies and "an uncertain demand forecast."

Business Travel Outlook By Country 

United States: The United States, for now, remains the world's largest business travel spender, even after experiencing marginally negative compounded annual growth between 2000 and 2010 and sluggish growth this year. "The U.S. recovery has hit a soft patch in 2011 and business travel spending growth has also slowed accordingly," according to the GBTA Foundation report. "More robust growth will resume in 2012. By 2013, the U.S. business travel industry will regain its prior peak. Professional and business services is the largest sector for travel spend, accounting for over 10 percent of total business travel spending. Growth stars of the future include health care, education and construction sectors as re-investment in people and structures gains ground." Researchers estimated that the five-year U.S. CAGR for business travel through 2015 would be 3.8 percent, while its BTI, currently at 109, would increase to 137 by 2015.

China: Currently the second-largest business travel market, China's business travel spending is growing four times more quickly than that of the United States and is on a trajectory to become the world leader by 2015, according to the report, which noted that "both domestic and international outbound [travel] are growing at double-digit [percentages]." The GBTA Foundation pegged China's BTI at 286, five times the 2000 figure, and projected it to soar to 557 in 2015. The country's business travel spending is powered by infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.

Japan: "Struggling" before the earthquake and tsunami this year, Japan in 2011 is projected to show negative business travel spending. International outbound travel still has "performed well," and construction and manufacturing will lead business travel spending during the next few years "due to earthquake recovery and export demand," according to the study.

United Kingdom: Still "tethered to the challenges of the rest of Europe," U.K. business travel spending won't reach its prior peak "until as late as 2015," researchers determined. "Social, business, and transportation services drive business travel in the United Kingdom. All are expected to advance slowly through 2015." The current U.K. BTI is 95, below the 2005 base year.

Germany: "Growth in real estate and the travel-intense transportation services will aid in Germany's business travel spending bounce back over the next five years," according to the report. 

France: Business travel spending will "bounce back slightly" with help from real estate, and professional and business services sectors, but still will remain "slowed by European debt woes."

Brazil: "While much of the world has been struggling with economic recovery, Brazil has been growing at an aggressive pace over the last two years," and business travel spend this year is projected to increase 17 percent from 2010, which saw a 28 percent jump from 2009, according to the study. "This growth, however, will cool slightly as the more mature Brazilian economy struggles with higher interest rates and large gaps in infrastructure needs. Spending on business travel is expected to drop to 7 percent annually over the next five years."

Australia/New Zealand: "Less susceptible" to the global recession, business travel spending in Australia and New Zealand will "stay on a slow but steady growth pattern," according to the report's authors.

Canada: Canada is expected to experience "steady" business travel growth during next five years, with "solid" growth in government and real estate.

India: "Tremendous growth" driven by a "developed and diversified economy" has India on track to expand business travel spending by double-digit percentages and grow its BTI to 365 by 2015, up from the current level of 197. "The boom in exports, particularly in services, coupled with a growing domestic consumption has pushed India to the 12th largest business travel economy in 2010," according to the study.


To compile the report, researchers used a variety of data sources, including the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, the U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the United Nations World Tourism Organization, other government sources including ministries of transportation, tourism and commerce, Boeing, D.K. Shifflet & Associates, IHS Global Insight, IPK International, the International Air Transport Association, the International Monetary Fund, Morgan Stanley, the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, Smith Travel Research, Wells Fargo Bank and "national input/output accounts for 48 of the 75 countries analyzed in the study."

Business travel spending projections considered "trends in travel intensity, productivity and the impact of business cycles," as well as industry sales projections and reconciliation with several sources.

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