A Snapshot of the Ten Biggest Business Travel Markets in the World

The top ten business travel markets in the world are not static. Indeed, recent GBTA Foundation BTI reports have shown that China has overtaken the United States as the largest business travel market in the world. There is a significant margin between the number one and two markets – China with $291 billion spent on business travel and the U.S. with $290 billion spent on business travel – and third place Germany with $64 million in business travel spending.

According to the recent Brazil Outlook BTI sponsored by Visa, the second half of the top ten business travel markets could be in for a bigger shake-up – with Brazil at risk of dropping out altogether. In early July, with the release of our Global BTI report, we will have the latest rankings and may see some changes. A deterioration in Brazilian-originated business travel spending has led to Brazil falling in the rankings of the top business travel markets in the world.  The Brazilian market was once the seventh largest in the world measured in total business travel spend. Over the last two years, however, the country has fallen to the number nine spot, being surpassed by South Korea and Italy. It is likely to fall to be overtaken by India and fall to the tenth spot in the near future.

The rise in the Brazilian middle class over the previous decade helped accelerate Brazil’s economic activity and giving the country international acclaim as one of the BRIC countries held up as a model of prudent development. These gains also lead to a rapidly advancing business travel market.  Brazil’s business travel and economic growth have stagnated over the last few years and its business travel market is in significant danger of backsliding and losing much of the momentum gained in the early 2000s.

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More alarming is the poor state of Brazil’s infrastructure. While some gains have been made in preparation for the Summer Olympics, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2015-2016 Global Competitiveness report ranked Brazil 123 out of 144 countries for quality of infrastructure, falling three spots from last year and a cumulative twenty-four spots over the last four years.  This is by far the lowest of any of the other BRIC countries or of any of the other top 10 business travel markets.

Optimistically, The WEF report ranked Brazil’s airport infrastructure 95 out of 144, which is up 28 spots over the last two years. These gains are likely due to the privatization of several of the country’s airports.

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While the immediate future will be difficult for Brazil, the latest BTI report predicts that 2016 will be the nadir of Brazil’s woes. Indeed, continued privatization in the highway and rail sectors is expected to generate approximately $66 billion USD in new investment over a 25-year horizon, with the majority of funds to be disbursed over the next few years. Projects include a high-speed rail between Rio and Brasilia. These infrastructure improvements will be critical for Brazil to regain footing as a top business travel market over the next 10 to 15 years.