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Pent-up winter demand to boost business travel spending

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An already optimistic outlook for 2014 U.S. business travel spending is getting even brighter, according to a new report that cites rising corporate profits, management confidence, job development as well as businesses planning on rescheduling many of those meetings canceled due to the polar vortex and other miserable winter snowstorms.

U.S. business travel spending is now expected to rise 7.1 percent in 2014, amounting to $293.3 billion, according to a report released by the Global Business Travel Association on Tuesday. In January, the GBTA was forecasting a 6.6 percent growth rate for 2014.

"The winter has been a tough one. I think the spring and fall will see strong business travel in the U.S.," Michael McCormick, executive director and chief operating officer of the association told CNBC. "The spring particularly will be gangbusters. People will be rescheduling trips, there is pent-up demand."

That's good news for the airlines especially, as some analysts had wondered whether business travelers would just turn to the phone or teleconferences after more than 100,000 flights were canceled this winter.

The biggest driver of U.S. spending remains outbound international travel, McCormick said. The GBTA has tracked a 13 percent year-over-year increase in that category.

The crisis in Crimea is flagged as a potential problem if a trade embargo stalls European economic growth, which could in turn slow U.S. growth and business travel.

The GBTA BTI Outlook for the United States is published quarterly and sponsored by Visa.

The GBTA report is one of several recent forecasts with upbeat outlooks for travel spending.

Hotel operators around the world are also showing increased optimism, according to a survey released Monday by the Horwath Hotel, Tourism and Leisure hospitality consulting firm. The survey focuses only on the next several months and shows continued strength in the Americas, continued recovery in Asia and a slight improvement in Europe.

Likewise, a study issued last week by Oxford Economics and commissioned by the travel technology company Amadeus forecasts strong international growth over the next decade. The Amadeus report pegs outbound travel from China as one of the strongest drivers of growth.

Indeed, other GBTA global forecasts put China business travel spending growth far out in front of everyone else, according to McCormick. "The Chinese will surpass the United States by the start of 2016 in global business travel spending based on current forecasts," he said.

Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.

—By CNBC's Amy Langfield


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