Average Compensation for U.S. Travel Buyers Gets Moderate Year-Over-Year Bump

Average compensation for U.S. travel buyers saw a moderate 1.8 percent year-over-year increase in 2016 reaching $114,000, according to an annual study released today by the GBTA Foundation. Despite only a modest increase, almost three-quarters (73 percent) of travel buyers are satisfied with their compensation, while only 8 percent are dissatisfied – in line with the past two years and a dramatic decrease in those dissatisfied since 2013.


The 2016 Compensation and Benefits study reveals GTP Certification holders earn $125,000, 9.6 percent more than their peers without it. The GTP Certification is designed to raise industry standards, enhance work performance and recognize individuals who demonstrate core competencies essential to the business travel management discipline. In addition to a higher salary, buyers with their GTP are more likely to have at least one decade of industry experience, work at the manager level or higher and work for companies with travel spend of at least $10 million.

Income also varies on a variety of factors. Buyers with a bachelor’s degree earn roughly $20,000 more than those without one, and those holding a master’s or other advanced degree earn an additional $20,000. In the West and Northeast, average income is considerably higher than in the Midwest and South and income also increases with company travel spend, ranging from $88,000 at low spend companies to $147,000 at high spend companies.

The largest disparity, however, comes from the buyer’s position level. Directors earn an average of $161,000, 61 percent more than managers ($100,000), while managers earn roughly one-third more than experienced/entry level buyers ($74,000).

Compensation deals purely with the financial side of things – salaries and bonuses. When it comes to total compensation though, both tangible and intangible benefits may be difficult to quantify, but that certainly doesn’t diminish their value to an employee.

So, what types of benefits do travel buyers typically receive? Companies almost universally offer travel buyers medical, vision and dental insurance, yet rarely cover the entire cost. Large majorities also offer life and disability insurance, with one-fourth to two-fifths covering the entire cost. Defined contribution plans (92 percent), such as a 401k, are much more common than defined benefits plans promising a fixed payout (33 percent).

Beyond insurance and retirement benefits, large majorities of companies offer healthcare (82 percent) and flexible spending accounts (77 percent). Seven in ten companies offer flexible work schedules (71 percent), about two-thirds offer the option to work from home (63 percent) and just over half offer gym discounts or reimbursements (55 percent). Only a small share offer childcare discounts (20 percent).

Transportation benefits are offered less frequently than other types of benefits. While a large majority offer mileage reimbursement (75 percent), only one-third (31 percent) offer public transportation discounts and even fewer (26 percent) offer parking discounts or reimbursement. On the flipside, companies often subsidize education and professional development for buyers with large majorities offering conference attendance reimbursement (80 percent), tuition reimbursement (79 percent), professional association dues reimbursement (73 percent) and continuing education opportunities (69 percent).


If a salary increase or bonus were not possible, what perk or benefit did travel buyers say they would value most from a company?


What sets apart the “very satisfied” buyers from the others? On average, these “very satisfied” buyers earn 31 percent more than other buyers and are more likely to receive some benefits including conference attendance reimbursement, continuing education opportunities, grants of company stock and childcare discounts or reimbursement. They are also much more likely to work for organizations that cover the entire cost of various benefits.

This study is designed to allow individuals to easily compare their compensation level and benefits with their peers. While no two individuals will view a compensation package in exactly the same way, the study reveals benefits appealing to many very satisfied buyers providing a helpful guideline for companies as well when designing their benefit programs.

The study is based on an online survey of 303 travel buyers currently residing in the United States who are employed full time, and was fielded from June 7-16, 2016.

More Information
The study, 2016 Compensation and Benefits: A Survey of Buyers in the Business Travel Industry, is available free of charge exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing [email protected].

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