Corporate Travel Managers Predict More Travel for 2007

The National Business Travel Association's (NBTA) 2007 business travel overview and cost forecast, released just before Thanksgiving, was full of good news for road warriors: More than two-thirds (68 percent) of the 189 travel managers surveyed said their employees will be traveling more next year, and nearly half (46 percent) said more of their people are likely to travel in 2007. Most respondents also predicted they would spend more on air travel and hotel stays in 2007 than they did in 2006.

"Meetings are a part of business travel, so these numbers hopefully reflect meetings numbers," Bill Connors, executive director of NBTA, told MeetingNews.

In related news, hospitality consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a study in early November indicating that the growth in hotel demand by business travelers was just 0.8 percent in 2006 — a sharp decline from 2005's figure of 2.5 percent growth. But Bjorn Hanson, global leader of PwC's hospitality and leisure practice in New York City, said this did not contradict the NBTA survey. "Travel is still growing — just not as quickly as it did last year," he told MN.

Connors agreed. "PwC is saying the rate of growth is easing up," he said. "But growth is still very solid. I don't think our research refutes that."

Business travelers interviewed by MN, however, said their experiences contrasted with NBTA's and PwC's research. "Our travel budget for next year is flat," said Brian Lewis, head of research and development at Cookson Electronics in Jersey City, NJ, who travels approximately once a month. "Those survey results surprise me," he added. "If costs are going up" — which NBTA's respondents also predicted — "we'll have fewer people traveling."

Beth Cooper-Zobott, director of conference services for Chicago-based real estate firm Equity Residential, agreed. "I can't speak for the company, but I will be traveling less next year," she said.

The NBTA survey also asked respondents whether they were responsible for corporate meetings spend. Four out of 10 said that they were; of them, 11 percent said that was a recent development. An additional 12 percent said they expected to have responsibility for managing meetings in the next two years.

Connors said the numbers showed "a clear trend toward consolidation of travel and meetings" that was reflected in his own organization. "The number of programs we offer on strategic meetings management has grown," he said. "And of our 12 board members, two are corporate meetings folks."

Contact Sara J. Welch at [email protected]

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