Last updated: 02:30 PM ET, Mon April 06 2015

U.S. Business Travel on the Rise Despite Dwindling Perks

Business Travel | Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) | Patrick Clarke | April 06, 2015

U.S. Business Travel on the Rise Despite Dwindling Perks

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While business travel spending and trips are both on the rise in the U.S., according to the latest forecast from the Global Business Travel Association, many of the perks road warriors have grown accustomed to are being left behind.

Business travel spending has rebounded in recent years, but much of the increase is a result of inflation, with the rest being attributed to increasingly productive business travelers.

"They are getting more done per trip than ever before, resulting in a longer average trip than 15 years ago," said GBTA executive director Mike McCormick.

The GBTA's latest business travel forecast for the U.S. predicts a 6.2 percent rise in spending on business travel to $310.2 billion in 2015 and a 1.7 percent rise in business trips to 490.4 million this year.

Nonetheless, companies and business travelers are cutting costs by cutting out the perks. 

"Coach is still king when it comes to flying," writes USA Today's Charisse Jones. "Expense accounts remain tight. And the choice of hotels tends to fall in the middle of the pack."

Frequent traveler and USA Today Road Warriors panel member Phil Bush points to last decade's economic collapse as the turning point for business travel.

"I think the recession (of 2008) was when it really changed forever," said Bush. "There was a permanent tightening of reins around travel. We are so many years past the time when travel was a good thing. Now it's just 'I have to go from city A to city b to do my job, and I go.'"

"At a company level...things are in a lot of ways getting better,'' Bush added. "But there's no loosening up of anything, because they're trying to make more money, and all we are is expenses. I'm not saying that negatively. It's just a fact.''

McCormick takes it one step further: "I don't think we're ever going back to those times."

"Companies see that there is value at times in using a premium class of service," he added. "There is value at times at spending more to entertain your clients. But you do that with a specific business purpose in mind.''

It's clear that business travel drives business growth, but as more and more companies look to cut costs in a tough economy, it seems that the quality, not the quantity of trips will be sacrificed. 


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