War, SARS, Economic Concerns Slow Business Travel

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- In a survey of more than 240 corporate travel managers conducted April 1-7 by the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), more than 67% of respondents said travel has decreased in their companies in response to the war with Iraq.

But the war in Iraq is not the only factor currently affecting corporations' travel decisions. A total of 55% of respondents stated that the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Asia has caused a decrease in travel, while 36% credited the nation's orange-level terrorism threat. And in another example of the connection between corporate travel and the economy, 49% of respondents indicated that corporate profit estimates were causing decreased travel in their companies.

"The war and international health concerns are having a dramatic effect on corporations' travel decisions," said NBTA President Kevin Iwamoto. "Yet our members tell us that economic conditions and corporate finances continue to play a role in declining travel expenditures."

Asked to look forward, 54% of respondents expected their total travel spending in 2003 to be down from 2002 spending levels. In addition, recovery in the business travel industry is not expected until 2004 or later, according to 74% of respondents.

The concerns of corporate travelers are also affecting travel decisions. 73% of survey respondents said their travelers had expressed concerns about traveling since the war began, and 58% of travelers have been in increased communications with their corporate travel department. In response to these concerns, some travel managers are providing employees on the road with global cell phones and 24-hour hotlines to aid communication in the event of an emergency.

To further address possible risks, most corporations are requiring employees to book all travel through company channels, are requesting additional contact information, and are urging caution when traveling in international destinations.

"In these uncertain times, the role of the corporate travel department in ensuring employee safety and reaching corporate financial goals becomes even more crucial," said Iwamoto. "Our members are working creatively to provide valuable information and support to their corporations and their travelers."

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