The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

Challenges Persist for International Outbound Travel from the United States

In 2015, the global economic growth rate grew at its slowest rate since 2009. This stagnant growth had a clear impact on international outbound (IOB) travel from the United States according to GBTA’s BTI 2016 Q1 Outlook, which was sponsored by Visa. For years IOB travel growth was a key driver of the economic recovery in the business travel industry, however this year that growth has stalled.

The study found that while IOB travel was slow, and will continue to grow at an anemic pace this year, there should be an improved outlook in international outbound travel in the coming years. The IMF is projecting growth to accelerate slightly this year to 3.4 percent from last year’s 3.1 percent, but many downside risks to the global economy remain, which will continue to affect the IOB travel market for the remainder of the year.

However, U.S. travel to the Eurozone is projected to see an uptick as economic stimulus should lead to a healthier year for firms across the European continent. The outlook for travel from the United States to the Eurozone should become clearer still after the United Kingdom votes on June 23 on a referendum on whether or not to remain in the economic bloc or not.

The UK’s exit from the European Union – or “Brexit” – could have negative consequences on business travel as well as trade, jobs and investment in the UK and throughout the EU.

IOB Travel from the US

Outside of travel from the United States to Europe, emerging markets, particularly commodity-dependent economies including much of Latin America and Africa, will continue to be challenged by significantly lower commodity prices. These challenges have led to much lower volumes of business trips coming from the United States.

Also impacting IOB are the frequently mentioned challenges in China – namely, slower growth, rising uncertainty around economic performance and a general mistrust of state-run reporting agencies. China has been an obvious growth engine for U.S. international outbound travel and remains a wild card in terms of IOB performance over the next few years.

IOB travel volume grew an estimated 3.8 percent in 2015 while spending advanced only 1.8 percent over 2014 levels. This trend was partially driven by the continued strength of the U.S. dollar. The stronger dollar translates into relatively cheaper travel abroad for U.S. firms and, thus, lowers measurements of aggregate spending.

The stronger U.S. Dollar has the opposite impact on volume, however. The lower costs for travel abroad translates into a higher ROI for U.S. firms sending workers out on international travel. While there is some competing downward pressure on volume from the those same firms likely experiencing lower top-line growth from their operations abroad, the chart below clearly shows that the net impact on a stronger dollar is better IOB volume performance.

US Dollar IOB Correlation

Significant recovery is not likely until 2017 and beyond when the picture for business travel in general – including IOB travel – is forecast to become much more positive as many of the issues currently causing global uncertainty are resolved and business confidence improves.

GBTA Kicks Off 2016 Gift of Knowledge Programs in Shanghai and Beijing

First announced in 2014, The Gift of Knowledge Initiative was created to implement an innovative and comprehensive program to further develop the travel management profession in China. In 2015, more than 200 individuals were able to participate in the inaugural delivery of workshops in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen bringing travel professionals together to discuss timely topics as well as opportunities and challenges in the industry.


Last week, GBTA released its latest forecast showing China overtook the United States as the world’s largest business travel market. China edged past the United States in total business travel spending at the end of 2015 by a billion U.S. dollars. According to the forecast, China will soar ahead in 2016 with business travel spend forecast to grow 10.1 percent to $320.7 billion USD, compared to 1.9 percent growth in the United States and $295.7 billion USD in total business travel spend. This marks a monumental shift in the industry and demonstrates how important the need is for holistic education and training for travel management professionals in this region of unprecedented growth and demand.


This morning kicked off the GBTA Foundation’s 2016 Gift of Knowledge programming in Shanghai with a workshop at The Westin Bund Center. Attendees were treated to engaging discussions with industry leaders and networking opportunities with fellow travel professionals. Topics included an introduction to risk management, risk management programs for ground transportation in China, an introduction to the latest in travel management technology and how to determine the right technology for your travel management program.


This Friday will feature a similar workshop in Beijing. We look forward to continue delivering on the promise of providing leading education for Chinese business travel professionals. None of this could be possible without the support of our Gift of Knowledge Partners including: DTG, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, United, Ctrip Corporate Travel, InterContinental Hotels Group, Wyndham Hotel Group, Star Alliance and Marriott. Stay tuned for info on upcoming sessions.

Week in Review

For Earth Day, airports and airlines are marking the day with environment-focused special events, according to USA Today.

In major news this week, the Los Angeles Times covered a recent GBTA Foundation report showing China has surpassed the United States as the global leader in business travel spending. Entrepreneur also reported on the reasons behind the lagging growth in U.S. business travel this year, and noted that companies are maximizing their travel to make it as cost efficient as possible. "Business travel is not a perk, it's a necessity," GBTA's Mike McCormick told reporter Carly Okyle.

ABC News reports that airlines are looking to make window and aisle seats a luxury meaning you could be paying more to get out of the middle seat. Airlines seat size has been making the news a lot lately and you won't want to miss this video from Fox and Friends where they ask if it should be the government's role to regulate comfort and seat size for airlines.

Hotel Marketing took a look at the social side of hospitality this week reporting on a Cornell study saying hotels really shouldn't overdo responses to online reviews. In other articles they focused on using Facebook messenger and Instagram for booking.

In an interesting interview, Skift talks with the Paris Convention Bureau about their strategy to engage the international meetings marketplace since the attacks last November and what challenges they now face.

Lyft is gaining on Uber when it comes to corporate use, according to Skift, while taxi use has plummeted. Also in the news, Uber settled this week with the California drivers suing to be treated more like traditional employees. A Bloomberg story says the agreement calls for Uber to pay as much as $100 million to drivers in California and Massachusetts and allows them to solicit tips from riders, but keeps them classified as contract workers.

In GBTA news, GBTA announced the launch of GBTA India this week and also gave out awards honoring companies who demonstrate outstanding leadership, innovation and commitment to delivering best in class sustainability programs, products and services. OpenJaw reports on a checklist for corporate travelers delivered during a duty of care session at GBTA's record-breaking Canada conference earlier this week.

Here are your lists for this week plus a bonus infographic:

5 New Travel Startups Making Business Travel Stress-Free - Skift
The Reasons Why Business Travel Isn't Up to Modern Trends - Entrepreneur
Infographic: The Who, Where and Why on Millennials and Travel - Tnooz    

China Overtakes the United States as World's Largest Business Travel Market

While it is pretty much a photo finish, China edged past the United States in total business travel spending at the end of 2015 by a billion U.S. dollars making it the largest business travel market in the world. The two countries finished the year with $291.2 billion in spend compared to $290.2 billion, respectively, according to a recent report, GBTA BTI™ Outlook – China 2016 H1, that was sponsored by Visa.

Additionally, the study found that China will soar ahead in 2016 with business travel spend forecast to grow 10.1 percent to $320.7 billion USD, compared to 1.9 percent growth in the United States and $295.7 billion USD in total business travel spend.

Biz Travel Spending Top 10 Markets

Some other key highlights from the report include:

  • Early 2016 volatility in China’s financial markets once again led to heightened concerns about a potential hard landing for China resulting in collateral damage to the global economy, but a steady stream of indicators continue to point towards controlled growth moderation as planned.
  • GBTA’s expectations for the Chinese economy are for a continuation of GDP growth moderation bringing rates of 6.4 percent and 6.1 percent for 2016 and 2017, respectively. Growth will continue to come primarily from consumption and purposeful government infrastructure investment as China works to shift its economy to one driven by consumers, not just investment and exports.
  • Despite the slowing Chinese economy, investment in travel infrastructure continues in anticipation of better days ahead for both business and leisure travel. A plan to open 82 new airports has been underway since 2011 and hoteliers are also continuing to increase their presence in China. Over 70 percent of the hotel construction pipeline in Asia Pacific can be attributed to China.
  • Business travel spend in China continues to be dominated by domestic business travel, which comprises 95 percent of total business travel spend. Pressure from slower economic expansion will keep a lid on the tremendous levels of domestic business travel growth seen in previous years, but growth of roughly 10 percent is still expected on an annual basis over 2016 and 2017.
  • GBTA’s forecast of 9.8 percent total business travel spend growth in 2017 would mark the first year of this millennium that China’s business travel spend growth rates dropped below double digits.

While the United States and China are currently neck and neck in terms of business travel spend, China’s business travel growth is forecast to grow significantly in the coming years while the United States’ will grow at a much more moderate pace. Regardless of which country is the largest market for business travel, 2017 is predicted to be a much stronger year for both markets once some of the current uncertainty subsides. This inflection point is an indication of the truly global nature of today’s economy.

The Travel Habits of Highly Effective Mexico Business Travelers: Overnight Trips Drive a Booming Market

If the typical Mexican business traveler were to set up an online profile, it might read, “successful, college educated, middle-upper management professional male seeks to contribute to $263.2 billion Mexican peso (MXN) industry through frequent, individual, overnight business trips to the South-Central region of the country.” Indeed, according to a recent study sponsored by the InterContinental Hotels Group, The Mexican Business Travel Industry: Business Travel’s Impact on Jobs and the Mexican Economy in 2015the fictitious online profile is an accurate composite of the trends, traits and habits of the typical Mexican Business Traveler.

In 2015, there were a total of 17.2 million domestic business trips taken around Mexico and another 587,000 trips into Mexico from international destinations. As such a large volume of travel would indicate, business travel is a significant source of growth and revenue within Mexico. Over 60 percent of business travelers are men, and the majority of them – 6 out of ten – are college educated. As one might imagine, these successful, college-educated, mid-career professionals spend good money when they travel for business. Most travel – 92 percent – is overnight. The South-Central region of the country – which is home to the capital, Mexico City – is the single largest destination.


Total person-trip volume grew 7.1 percent in 2015 and total spending by business travelers (domestic + international inbound) grew by 9.4 percent. The amount spent per business trip rose 2.7 percent to $11,472 Mexican pesos per trip. Of the total spent per trip, $3,331 MXN was spent on lodging, $3,356 MXN was spent on airfare, $956 MXN was spent on ground transportation, $2,027 MXN on food and beverage in restaurants, $508 MXN on entertainment and $1,294 MXN on shopping and merchandise.

Domestic business travel accounted for approximately 71.4 percent of the total business travel spending in Mexico. A quarter of this travel went to the South-Central region, where Mexico City is located. The other three-quarters of business travel was spread fairly evenly throughout the other regions of the country. 92 percent of business trips were overnight with almost half – 48 percent – lasting between two and three days.

Given the average demographics and length of business trips within Mexico, it is no surprise that the country’s business travel industry is booming. Business travel makes up 1.4 percent of Mexico’s entire GDP, supports 1.2 million jobs and generated $71.2 billion MXN in taxes in 2015.

Mexico is just another example of a country’s economy being driven by business travel. Revenue generated, taxes collected and jobs created in Mexico as a direct result of a robust business travel industry demonstrates the positive impact that business travel can have on a nation’s economy.

Week in Review

This past week, GBTA released its quarterly U.S. business travel forecast. USA Today's Nancy Trejos covered the report writing, companies will continue to send employees out on the road this year, but they will do so at a more moderate pace. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian agreed with the forecast that business travel demand will continue to grow, telling Skift they are not seeing any trend lines to give them pause. In other business travel economic news, Travel and Tour World covered another new GBTA report showing business travel drives jobs and GDP growth in Mexico.

Skift talks European business travel's resilience and other tourism trends this week. The Harvard Business Review shares a trend they spotted in recent research showing women book business travel earlier, saving companies millions.

The European Commission is considering a one-year suspension of its visa waiver program from visitors from the United States and Canada, Travel Mole reports. GBTA's Mike McCormick commented on the issue saying GBTA strongly discourages European policy makers from considering a suspension of its visa waiver agreement with the United States and Canada as it facilitates travel, spurring job creation and economic growth and is a vital tool for promoting international trade. A suspension would have a negative impact on business travel, which accounted for an estimated $1.2 trillion dollars in global spending last year, he added.

In airline news, the Chicago Tribune reports that airlines fear TSA staffing woes will mean much longer lines, especially as the busy summer travel season heats up. Skift reports on why business travelers are impacted by faring changes introduced recently by American, Delta and United for multi-city fares.

In hospitality news, Hotel Marketing reports on best social media practices for hotel brands as well as how millennials use of mobile is reshaping the hospitality industry.

For your lists for this week, I leave you with five myths about hotels from USA Today and tips to stay healthy while traveling for business from The Globe & Mail.

Global Uncertainty Causing Delays in Business Travel Growth

On Tuesday, GBTA released our quarterly U.S. business travel forecast sponsored by Visa, Inc. According to the GBTA BTI Outlook – United States 2016 Q1 report, U.S. business travel will continue to grow only moderately in 2016 as global uncertainty looms.

While the latest GBTA BTI™ Outlook survey found that 2016 will look very similar to previous years with anemic but steady growth, there is cause for optimism about 2017 as the health of the global economy becomes clearer and a number of factors including the U.S. presidential election to the possible “Brexit” of the United Kingdom from the EU become resolved later this year.

US BTI 2016 Q1 pic

Some key findings from GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States 2016 Q1 include:

  • In the fourth quarter of 2015, 125.1 million person-trips were generated in the United States and $72.4 billion was spent on business travel activity. This represents flat year-over-year growth in trip volume and 0.7 percent growth in business travel spending.
  • Financial market volatility has ratcheted up in response to weaker global economic growth and its impact on commodity prices, exchange rates and corporate earnings. And weak supply-driven oil prices continue to add to the state of confusion.
  • Faltering share prices and falling bond yields have put many businesses into a cautionary mood. A growing number of business have been re-instituting cost control efforts and revisiting hiring, capital expansion plans and travel budgets.
  • Price growth is expected to normalize in 2016, growing 2.5 percent, followed by a more significant gain of 4 percent in 2017.
  • Price growth in the hotel market continues to outpace inflation in all other key business travel segments. Average daily rates (ADR) rose an estimated 5.1 percent in 2015 to $115.
  • U.S. Business travel spending is expected to increase 1.9 percent in 2016 to $295.7 billion and business travel volume is forecasted to increase 2.1 percent to 508.6 million trips.

Despite the slow year-over-year growth, caution at home and uncertainty in the global economy, the outlook for business travel in the coming months and years remains positive. It is estimated that there will be over 500 million business travel trips taken in 2016 and more than $295 billion spent on business trips this year.

While business travel continues to experience a similar pattern of growth it has endured for the past several years, the overall health of the business travel industry remains one of the strongest barometers of the health of the overall U.S. and global economies as an indicator of business confidence, economic growth, and market stability.

The Mexican Business Travel Industry: A Healthy Business Travel Industry is Driving Growth in all Regions of Country

The Mexican economy boasts a highly fluid and sophisticated economy with a free flow of goods, services and business travelers throughout the country’s various regions and states. Business travel itself is a huge driver of the country’s economic growth and health – accounting for $263.2 billion Mexican Pesos (about $15 billion) in 2015.

A recent study sponsored by InterContinental Hotels Group, The Mexican Business Travel Industry: Business Travel’s Impact on Jobs and the Mexican Economy in 2015, found that business travel within Mexico is big business in terms of jobs created, revenue generated, industries affected and taxes collected through business travel.

The study found that in 2015, there were more than 17 million domestic business trips taken around Mexico and another 587,000 business trips into Mexico from international destinations. The vast majority of these trips – 92 percent – were overnight trips. While the volume of trips is impressive in and of itself, the impact that business travel has on the overall Mexican economy is even more remarkable in terms of impact to the nation’s GDP, economy and jobs created.

What the Mexican Business Travel Industry study found was that business travel accounted for $263 billion MXN (about $15 billion) in travel and meetings spending, supported 907,000 business travel industry jobs, and generated $154 billion MXN ($8.7 billion) in direct revenue while adding $273 billion MXN ($15.5 billion) – 1.4 percent – to Mexico’s economy.


According to the report, the $263.2 billion pesos in business travel spending in 2015 resulted in $273.5 billion pesos in Mexican GDP. Essentially, every single Mexican Peso spent on business travel activity generated about $1.04 in GDP. Business travel was responsible for about 1.4 percent of Mexican GDP in 2015.  Of the $273.5 billion total, $154.1 billion accrued directly to the businesses that served business travelers or meeting attendees. Their supply chain beneficiaries received an additional indirect contribution of $84.2 billion. The downstream beneficiaries of spent business-travel supported wages received an induced contribution of $35.2 billion.

What the report illustrated is that business travel in Mexico drives business growth throughout the nation, and serves as a strong indicator for the overall health of Mexico’s economy and the state itself. The study also found that business travel throughout Mexico generates enough in taxes to educate over 1.1 million Mexican students every year. Indeed, a healthy business travel industry is a net positive for Mexico, the nation’s economy, the different regions and states throughout the country, the sponsoring companies and the individual travelers themselves.

Video: GBTA Foundation 2016 Q1 Business Travel Outlook

Today GBTA released our GBTA BTI Outlook – United States 2016 Q1 report, sponsored by Visa, Inc. In the video below, I break down four key headlines from the study.


Call for Nominations: GBTA Board of Directors

Each year in tandem with GBTA Convention, GBTA holds elections for its Board of Directors. In March, we opened up the call for nominations for this year’s open Board seats. This July while at Convention in Denver, we will be electing two new Direct Member directors at large and one new Allied Member director at large.

Volunteering on the Board is a chance for our industry's leaders to make a long-term positive impact on our profession. Volunteering has benefits beyond that as well. You get to use your skills to work for a greater goal while getting the opportunity to network with and meet people who will expose you to new ideas and approaches that could benefit your professional life. I have been volunteering for GBTA in various facets beginning at the chapter level 21 years ago and many of the ideas and concepts I learned over the years at these events contribute significantly to my current role.

What does it mean to be on the Board?
The Board of Directors serves a crucial role in determining the long-term strategy and future governance needs of our Association. A Director attends about four in-person meetings of the Board throughout the year as well as periodic Board conference calls as needed. In addition, all Board Members attend the annual GBTA Convention where they participate in several leadership assignments, on and off stage.

All Board Members spend time deliberating on matters and policies related to the Association's programs and services. In addition, Board Members should expect to carry out special assignments and make appearances at local chapter meetings, committee meetings or other forums where GBTA's leadership presence is needed throughout the year.

Additionally, Allied Member positions on the Board will also serve on the GBTA Allied Leadership Council. This Council advises the Board on industry related matters from a supplier perspective.

Who Can Serve on the Board?
To be eligible to serve on the GBTA Board of Directors, you have to be a Direct or Allied member in good standing for the past two consecutive years and need to have completed at least one year of service with the Association or a local chapter.

For nominating purposes, any Direct member can nominate themselves or a qualified Direct member for the Board and any Allied member can nominate themselves or a qualified Allied member to serve.

How Can I Submit a Nomination?
You will need to fill out a simple online form. GBTA’s nomination and election process is run through a third party firm – Election Services Corp. (ESC). On March 23, you should have received an email from ESC announcing the call for nominations that included a personalized link to the nomination website. You have until April 20, 2016 to submit your nomination(s).

If you can’t find that email or if you have any questions about the online nomination process, please contact ESC by email at or call toll-free +1 866 720 HELP (4357).

Once again, I strongly encourage you to nominate yourself or someone you know that would be a good addition to our Board. One of you could help make a difference in the future of our Association!