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Study finds increase in business travelers’ productivity

The number of trips taken by U.S. business travelers is expected to decline slightly this year, but spending on that travel is likely to increase — and not entirely because of higher prices. Instead, road warriors are accomplishing more per trip, according to the Global Business Travel Association.

In its latest Business Travel Quarterly Outlook, GBTA said that the number of trips taken by U.S. business travelers in 2012 is expected to drop by almost 1 percent from last year’s levels, while spending on those trips is projected to rise by 4.6 percent. Inflation in travel prices only accounts for about two-thirds of the spending increase, GBTA said.

“We’re seeing road warriors taking fewer trips, but making the most of them, making more stops and spending more on the road,” said GBTA executive director Michael McCormick. “The productivity explosion is a huge factor and it’s being brought on by better travel management, better technology and making the most of their time on the road. In the past, a road warrior may make two trips rather than just spending an extra night, or three travelers would go out on a trip together, where now it’s fewer. This is a remarkable trend that we don’t see ceasing.”

This is part of a long-term trend, GBTA said: From 2000 to 2011, the annual number of trips by U.S. business travelers fell 22.7 percent, from 570 million to 445 million, but spending rose 3.3 percent to $251 billion. The average amount spent per trip went up 33.6 percent in the decade, to $564, GBTA noted.

Spending on international outbound trips by U.S. business travelers has outpaced the overall business travel market, GBTA noted. It rose 8.5 percent in 2011 over the previous year, but for 2012, the organization foresees that growth rate slowing down to just 3 percent.

“The outlook is troubling” for international travel, McCormick said. “The Eurozone crisis is creating too much uncertainty for many businesses and causing many to rethink where they send their travelers. We don’t expect anyone to make drastic changes, because they won’t want to give up the advantage of the face-to-face meeting, but we do think these trips will become less frequent.”

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