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CFOs see healthy outlook for business travel in 2013

A new survey of corporate chief financial officers by American Express finds relative optimism about business travel budgets next year, as most expect both the U.S. economy and their own companies’ bottom lines to show improvement.

The survey of some 200 CFOs found that 61 percent expect their companies will spend the same or more on business travel in 2013 as they did in 2012.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean company travelers should expect an easier life on the road: “Most senior finance executives (64 percent) do not anticipate that corporate travel policies will loosen next year, in line with companies’ disciplined approach to controlling overall spending,” AmEx said.

According to Darryl Brown, AmEx’s president-global corporate payments-Americas, “Road warriors can expect to keep visiting new prospects and current customers in 2013 because these are the kinds of trips that drive sales. Businesses will be looking to manage their travel programs with a focus on holding down costs through negotiated discount rates and a strategic emphasis on high-value trips.”

Some 37 percent of the CFO respondents said that building new business would be the main focus of company travel in 2013, while 35 percent said it would be to retain existing clients or customers.

Of course, the entire picture could be influenced by what happens in Washington, and 52 percent of the CFOs said they do not expect that negotiations to resolve the “fiscal cliff” will be successful by the January 1 deadline. “If the combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board government spending cuts takes effect in 2013, 79 percent of senior finance executives expect an impact on their companies’ growth plans,” AmEx said.

Still, the finance chiefs remain generally optimistic: Some 75 percent said they expect revenue growth for their own companies next year, and 69 percent expect to see improved profits. And 73 percent said they anticipate that consumer spending in 2013 will remain stable or will increase.

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