Business Travel Rebounding

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Just over six months after the terrorist attacks on America, corporate travel is finally recovering, according to a new survey by the National Business Travel Association (NBTA). Yet, corporate travel managers believe it may take nearly a year for travel to reach 2000 levels.

In a survey of 200 corporate travel managers conducted March 8–13, 65% responded that they have seen demand for travel increase by up to or more than 10% since January of this year. Consumer product companies and computer and electronic companies reported the most significant increase in travel demand -- a sign that many of the sectors hardest hit by the poor economy are bouncing back.

Travel to the East North Central region of the country showed the most significant increase in travel from normal levels, while New England is also doing well as destination for business travel. These two regions were both top destinations for companies with travel increases of more than 10% compared to normal levels.

A total of 22% of travel managers expect travel to return to previous levels within the next six months, while 25% expect recovery in six to nine months and 35% expect it will be nine to 12 months before business travel recovers.

Corporate travel managers agree that business travel is tied to economic recovery. Almost 72% answered that a "stable economy" must happen before travel expenditures will return to their previous levels.

"Business travel expenditures are generally a good indicator of economic recovery," said Marianne McInerney, executive director of NBTA. "The increased travel demand our members are seeing shows confidence that the economy is turning around."

Also important to increasing travel expenditures are improvements to the aviation security systems and improved perception of the risks of traveling. Travel managers strongly indicated that returning to consistent check-in times at airports would be crucial to getting business travel expenditures back to previous levels. Many corporations are considering reducing out-of-town meetings (40%) or using more conference calls (56%) or webcasts (49%) if security processes continue to impede travelers.

In order to make security screening more reliable and efficient, 66% of travel managers favor a "trusted traveler" ID system that would allow frequent travelers to regain efficiencies at airport security checkpoints, up from 50% in January. "The ease and predictability of passing through travel security systems is critical in business travel decisions," concluded McInerney.

The National Business Travel Association, established in 1968, represents more than 2,400 corporate travel managers and travel service providers.

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