People who work in the global travel industry know that theirs is a robust and growing market. Certainly, travel buyers, suppliers, managers and individual travelers alike know that global business travel spurs growth, fosters vital relationships and establishes the framework for innovation. Still, $1.2 trillion is a big number – roughly equivalent to Spain’s GDP according to the World Bank – yet that is how much was spent on global business travel in 2015. That is just one of the findings from GBTA’s new BTI™ Outlook – Annual Global Report & Forecast, sponsored by Visa.
The latest report from GBTA found that, despite continued global uncertainty, cautious optimism is driving a positive business travel forecast that is focused on steady, moderate growth worldwide. Specifically, the report predicts global business travel spend to advance 5.8 percent on average over the next five years reaching $1.6 trillion in 2020. Despite global business travel’s overall impact on the global economy, the report also makes clear that global business travel is affected by global trends as much as it drives them.
China, for example, is now the largest global business travel market in the world, totaling $291 billion in total spend. Despite years of rapid growth, China is beginning to moderate in terms of both GDP growth and business travel growth. The United States is close behind China with $290 billion in total spend, and India and Indonesia are both projected to witness double-digit growth for the next five years. Additionally, the fallout from the Brexit vote means that uncertainty will be driving much of Europe’s slow growth for the near future with a real impact on the overall global economy.
This year also represents 15 years of global business travel data tracked by GBTA. Over that time, business travel has evolved. In 2000, $634 billion was spent on global business travel. That amount has since doubled. Growth has been driven by an increasingly connected world and the rapid maturation of a number of key business travel markets.
External forces have had a dramatic impact on the global economy and global business travel as early in the millennium business travel volumes were held back in many developed economies that were battling recession. By 2004, however, the global economy was back in full swing and business travel prospered between 2003 and 2008. Beginning in late 2008, the Great Recession and Financial Crisis began and global business travel again plummeted. Over the next few years global business travel began to grow, outpacing the recovery in the overall global economy. Following the robust recovery period for business travel in 2010 and 2011, global business travel spending growth entered the doldrums only growing in the 3 percent range.
Now we are in an era of uncertainty driven by global forces such as Brexit, a presidential election in the U.S., a slowing of China’s economic growth, and ongoing crises in several parts of the world. This uncertainty is limiting but not eroding global business travel growth that will continue to see moderate gains into the foreseeable future.