Business Travel Projected to Rise in 2012

Business travelers will continue to rack up those frequent flier miles in 2012, new research shows.

According to the latest Business Travel Quarterly Outlook, traveling for work is expected to increase by nearly 5 percent this year.

The forecast follows a stronger 2011 than anticipated. The study found that the person-trip volume was up 3.1 percent in the third quarter of 2011, while total business travel spending was up 8.3 percent for the quarter.

When the fourth-quarter numbers are tallied, the total person-trip volume is expected to hit $446.5 million for the year, with total spending on business travel reaching $251.9 billion.

Michael W. McCormick, executive director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association, said the report suggests the country's business travelers will remain busy this year.

"Although the economic recovery is still modest, we see business travel remaining healthy and growing at a steady rate that outpaces GDP growth," McCormick said.

While international business travel is expected to remain stronger than domestic travel, the study found that overseas business trips will face new challenges in 2012, including issues in the euro zone that continue to plague the global economy.

"For the last few quarters, international travel has been a bright spot in business travel, due to the higher cost of travel and the steady growth in the number of trips," McCormick said. "However, it looks like the pressure building in growing economies will cause slower but steady growth in 2012."

The number of U.S.-initiated international business trips in 2011 is expected to hit 6.8 million when fourth-quarter numbers are accounted for, a 3.2 percent increase over 2010. The report is predicating a 2.4 percent growth this year.

While spending on group business travel is projected to be up 7.6 percent from 2010, it's unlikely 2012 will see such strong numbers. The study expects only a 4.2 percent growth in that area.

Conducted by the Global Business Travel Association, the Business Travel Quarterly Outlook projects  business travel trends over eight quarters and includes such key metrics as total business travel volume and spending as well as projections of changes in costs across both transient and meetings travel.