The increase is all the more impressive given that travel was down 14 percent in 2009.
GBTA also expects the number of business trips taken to grow 3 percent to 114 million between 2009 and 2012, while total business travel spending on hotels, airfare and rental cars is projected to grow 17 percent to over $70.5 billion.
“We’re still not at pre-recession levels, but we’ve seen across-the-board increases in volume starting last year and continuing into this year,” says Lane Dubin, vice president of American Express Global Business Travel. “We had seen some customers cut back their travel budgets by as much as 50 percent during the recession, and I think they’re recognizing now that was too extreme. If you want to grow your business you’ve got to get your people out there talking to customers. If you don’t do it the competition will.”
Indeed, a recent study by Oxford Economics USA, a global research group, found that companies realize $12.50 in incremental value and $3.80 in profits for every dollar spent on business travel, whether that's for meetings, conventions, training or as an incentive for performance.
It further notes that the average U.S. business would forfeit 15 percent of its profits in the first year of eliminating business travel, taking three years for profits to recover.
By sector, the industries with the largest projected increase in business travel spending over the next five years include utilities ($38.2 billion), food processing and services ($32.2 billion,) real estate ($23.2 billion), rubber and plastic manufacturing ($18.2 billion) and social and personal Services ($17.9 billion), according to the GBTA.
As companies loosen their purse strings — a result of growing confidence in the economic recovery — they’re taking a more strategic tack.