Business Travel Spending to Rise Nearly 5 Percent in 2015, But “Erratic” Economic Drivers Limit Growth
US Business Travel Spending up 38 Percent Since 2009
Alexandria, VA (July 7, 2015) – U.S. business travel spending will increase by 4.9 percent in 2015 to $302.7 billion, yet ongoing concerns about the U.S. economy will rein-in what could be even sharper growth, according to new research from the GBTA Foundation and Visa.
The 2016 outlook anticipates a surge in economic activity and confidence, with travel spending projected to increase by 5.4 percent to $318.9 billion.
Total trip volume follows a similar trend for 2015 and 2016. In 2015, U.S. travel volume is expected to increase by 1 percent to 488.1 million person-trips – an average of 1.3 million trips for every day of the year. Growth will substantially increase in 2016 with business travel volume accelerating by 3 percent to 502.8 million person-trips. That amounts to an average of more than 38,000 additional business trips every day.
These findings are part of the “GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States 2015 Q2,” a report by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), and sponsored by Visa, Inc.
“U.S. business travel was poised for significant growth in 2015, but the erratic performance of key economic drivers caused some to tap the brakes on additional travel spending,” said Michael W. McCormick, Executive Director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association. “Yet, economic fundamentals remain strong. Business travel will continue to have positive momentum as we move toward 2016, a leading indicator that the overall economy will continue to grow as well.”
Recovery Since the Great Recession
Since the Great Recession, U.S. business travel has increased significantly, reflecting and driving improvement in the overall economy.
After hitting its nadir at the end of 2009, global business travel spending has increased 38 percent on a nominal level, according to GBTA’s Business Travel Index.
THE GBTA BTI Outlook forecasts an additional 11 percent nominal level increase over the two-year span between 2015 and 2016.
The GBTA BTI Outlook projects that real GDP will advance 2.5 percent in 2015, down from our original estimate of 3 percent, due mainly to the unexpected extent of Q1 weakness. In 2016, GDP will grow by 3.1 percent, unchanged from our Q1 outlook.
The long-term outlook for U.S. business travel growth remains bright, but in the near-term the picture is mixed. Global business travel both drives, and is driven, by economic activity.
The U.S. economy continues to forge ahead but growth has been volatile. GDP growth for 2015Q1 is case in point having declined by -0.7 percent (Q/Q at annualized rate), down from +5 percent just two quarters before. Real GDP also declined in the first quarter of 2014 (-2.1 percent) due to severe winter weather. It then proceeded to quickly snap back. Many analysts are expecting the same this year.
Despite the recent challenges, the GBTA BTI Outlook’s expectations for the U.S. economy are largely unchanged from last quarter. The underlying momentum of job growth, wage gains and rising confidence will continue to compensate for weak global growth and postponed oil & gas investment. Consumer spending and housing are already showing positive reactions to rising disposable income. Moreover, gradually rising oil prices should help to re-start postponed energy investment projects.
Additional Business Travel Findings
Group meeting volume finished 2014 down by -2.0 percent. Much of this decline is the fallout from an extremely strong 2013 – a period when group volume surged 8.6 percent. Growth in 2013 was driven by the corporate meeting sector, which finally rebounded after a few down years. Despite the growth in volume, spend–per-trip declined in 2013, after growing every year since 2008. Spend per group business trip bounced back in 2014, however, eclipsing $700 per.
The GBTA BTI Outlook projects that group trip volume will advance 0.9 percent in 2015 and surge 3.1 percent in 2016. Spending, meanwhile, is projected to rise 5.3 percent this year and another 4.3 percent in 2016.
Individual business travel had its best year since The Great Recession in 2014, as volume grew 3.7 percent over 2013. Growth gained momentum over the latter half of the year and continues into 2015 as the domestic economy picks up steam and businesses send more workers on the road in support of top-line growth. We expect individual business travel volume will gain another 1.0 percent this year on its way to 302 million Person-Trips and spending on individual business travel will grow 4.9 percent to $134.8 billion.
Significant challenges to global economy remain, particularly in parts of Europe, China, Russia and Brazil. These factors coupled with a significantly stronger dollar are all weighing on the prospects for international outbound business travel over the next six quarters. The GBTA BTI Outlook projects that international outbound business travel will grow 3.1 percent this year; down from last quarter’s forecast of 5.1 percent.
Travel price inflation (TPI) is comprised of a number of travel goods and services including airfare, food away from home and lodging. Travel prices should only rise 1.7 percent this year before regaining more robust growth in 2016.
“While we would like to see the overall growth numbers more consistent, signs are good for a solid end to 2015 and a robust 2016,” said Brian Triplett, SVP, Head of Commercial Product, Visa Inc. “These increases in business travel will drive the transition to electronic payments. In turn, this will help companies reduce costs and track and pay for business-related travel expenses more simply and more efficiently.”
GBTA BTI™ Progresses Upward
The 2015Q1 GBTA BTI™ index came in at 137, significantly higher than our projection of 133 in last quarter’s forecast (GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States, April 2015). This higher level is driven primarily by a higher expectation for prices on travel goods and services, particularly transportation.
In total, the index has gained 40 points since bottoming in the fourth quarter of 2009. The economic recovery continues to gain momentum and expectations for travel prices continue to put upward pressure on the index.
We expect the GBTA BTI™ will experience strong growth over the forecast horizon. The index will gain another six points over 2015, finishing the year at 143. Momentum will continue into 2016 as the index gains another six points on its way to 149.
“The BTI forecast consistently correlates with overall GDP growth,” explained Joseph Bates, GBTA Foundation Vice President of Research. “As business travel increases, so will growth in the overall economy.”
The GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States report is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing [email protected] To view an abstract of this research, please click here.
Colleen Gallagher, +1 703-236-1133, [email protected]
Scott Gerber, +1 202-463-0067, [email protected]
About the GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States
The GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States projects aggregate business travel trends over the next eight quarters. The report includes key buy-side metrics such as total business travel volume and spending, plus supply-side projections of changes in costs, across both transient and meetings travel. Releases are published on the second Tuesday of each quarter.
The GBTA BTI™ Outlook uses an econometric model created by Rockport Analytics to better inform the forecast process. The model explicitly relates measures of business trip volume and spending, sourced from D.K. Shifflet & Associates to key economic and market drivers of business travel including: U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its components, U.S. Corporate Profits and Cash Flow, U.S. Employment & Unemployment, ISM Business Sentiment Index, Key Travel Components of CPI (airfare, lodging, food away from home, rental cars, fuel, transportation), among other components.
About the GBTA Foundation
The GBTA Foundation is the education and research foundation of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organization headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. Collectively, GBTA’s 7,000-plus members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA provides its growing network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts with world-class education, events, research, advocacy and media. The Foundation was established in 1997 to support GBTA’s members and the industry as a whole. As the leading education and research foundation in the business travel industry, the GBTA Foundation seeks to fund initiatives to advance the business travel profession. The GBTA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, see gbta.org and gbta.org/foundation.
About the Global Business Travel Association
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organization headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. GBTA’s 9,000-plus members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA and the GBTA Foundation deliver world-class education, events, research, advocacy and media to a growing global network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts. To learn how business travel drives lasting business growth, gbta.org