Despite many challenges, including political and economic uncertainty, terrorism, and more, worldwide business travel spending grew 5 percent in 2015, reaching a record $1.2 trillion, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), which today published its annual industry forecast, the "GBTA BTI Outlook - Annual Global Report & Forecast." In it, GBTA predicts that global business travel spending will grow to $1.3 trillion in 2016, and reach $1.6 trillion by 2020.
"Global business travel remains a critical driver of the success of organizations around the globe," said GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick. "Business travel has demonstrated a tremendous resiliency as it continues slow and steady progress even in the face of global uncertainty, a weakened global economy, terrorist attacks, world health issues, and other obstacles. Companies across the globe clearly understand the return on investment business travel delivers for their bottom line."
Along with persistent growth, the major headline from GBTA's annual report and forecast is business travel's changing landscape, which continues to shift from established to emerging economies. In fact, China overtook the United States as the world's largest business travel market for the first time in 2015, according to GBTA, which said the top five business travel markets last year were: China ($291.2 billion), the United States ($289.8 billion), Germany ($63.5 billion), Japan ($62.1 billion), and the United Kingdom ($47.1 billion), which grew 11.4 percent, 2.2 percent, 9.8 percent, 1 percent, and 8.3 percent, respectively, from 2014.
"As GBTA looks ahead towards 2020, we expect that there will be a drastic difference in the relative performance of business travel markets around the globe," reported GBTA, which said China will remain the world's largest business travel market for the foreseeable future. Other markets of note, meanwhile, are India and Indonesia, both of which will average double-digit growth in business travel spending over the next five years, according to GBTA.
As for the United States: Because of the British Brexit, the uncertain presidential election , and a weakening global economy, GBTA predicts business travel spending will grow just 0.9 percent this year, to $292.5 billion, before advancing 4.2 percent in 2017, to $304.9 billion.
"The slow growth environment of the U.S. and global economies has taken a toll on many fronts leading to this 'new normal' of slow, but steady 1 to 2 percent progress," McCormick concluded. "Favoring dividends, M&A, and stock repurchases over investing in capital, people, and business travel in this environment could come back to haunt U.S. businesses. When growth does re-accelerate, companies must be ready with the newest technologies, the most productive workforce, and the critical customer relationships necessary to take full advantage."
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