Business Travel First Quarter Grows

In an encouraging sign for the economy, domestic business travel grew in April for the first time in more than a year, according to a leading industry organization.

Business travel

Delta’s new terminal at JFK airport.

The U.S. Travel Association is a nonprofit organization that represents the travel industry, which generates $2.1 trillion in USA economic output and supports 15 million jobs.

Every month the association publishes a Travel Trends Index, which measures the pace and direction of travel to and within the USA, both for leisure and corporate. A number greater than 50 indicates an expansion of travel volume, while a number below indicates a decline.

In April, U.S. domestic business travel measured 51.7, a noticeable rise and the first positive year over year gain since March 2015. Overall, the April Current Travel Index rose to 52.2, the 76th straight month of growth for the travel industry, which continues a 6 year expansion.

“The big takeaway here is that April was the beginning of what we anticipate will be the inversion of many previously long travel trends, amid continued overall growth,” according to David Huether, the association’s senior vice president for research. Part of the increase is attributable to the Easter holiday falling in March, which pushed some business travel into the next month. Still, Huether notes that the growth in domestic business travel for the first time in 13 months is a major reversal.

What the U.S. Travel Association Says

While April’s figures were encouraging, the association has a mixed outlook on corporate travel over the long term. Business travelers may take more trips overall, but their spending may not be as robust.

Over the next six months, according to the association, “While looking forward, corporate travel searches and bookings are growing, economic prospects for domestic corporate travel remain muted through October 2016.” Still, the outlook for the total travel market – business and leisure travel combined remains positive, with overall USA travel expected to grow by about 2% through October.

What does this research mean for business travelers?
While there’s been some growth in the number of trips, travelers and travel managers alike will continue to keep a careful eye on the bottom line. That’s where an experienced corporate travel agent can be of invaluable assistance.