Business Travel Statistics: Welcome Aboard, Frequent Flyer
People just don’t do business like they used to. With everything moving online, corporate executives are communicating via email and messaging apps around the globe, all day, every day.
But, there’s something about human interaction that will never go out of style. That’s why traditional corporate protocol still insists on face-to-face meetings. Whether it’s to close a multi-million dollar deal, or to simply attend an annual work convention, a good, old-fashioned sit-down does the trick.
Although business travel statistics showed a significant slowdown in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, business trips today are on the rise, proving to be one of the most valuable status symbols a company can afford.
So, let us walk you through the terminals of international airports, hotel lobbies, and high-class restaurants with these up-to-date business travel stats.
Revenue and expenses
More than a quarter of global businesses rely on business travel.
(US Travel Association)
Nothing seals the deal like a good old handshake. Customers prefer to have in-person meetings, and companies owe them this privilege. That is why cutting on business travel is rarely posed as an option among big companies, as personal contact with clients is considered important.
According to Oxford Economics business travel statistics, if companies halted their travel policies and denied their customers meetings in person, they would lose approximately 25% of their current clients. This number fairs even higher when it comes to revenue, which would experience a drop of 28% if this nightmare scenario would suddenly turn real.
But that’s not all. An estimate of 36% of customers and 38% of the revenue would be lost in the manufacturing sector if companies were denied their right to use airplanes, trains, and cars to meet and discuss their businesses with clients in person.
Business travel made up about 26% of the total travel revenue in the United States in 2018.
(Global Business Travel Association) (US Travel Association)
The total travel output for 2018 was $2.5 trillion. While leisure traditionally takes up most of the revenue (around 74%), business travel is a constant contributor, with more than $292 billion in spending registered in 2017.
In 2018 US residents logged around 463 million domestic business trips, with 38% of the total number credited to traveling for meetings and events.
And the number is constantly increasing. According to US business travel statistics, the figure is set to rise to 493.7 million by 2022.
Compared to the global business travel revenue of $1.3 trillion in business travels, the United States is certainly a force to be reckoned with. With forecasters agreeing that this figure is to rise to more than $1.7 trillion by 2023, it seems that a huge chunk of the global revenue will still belong to American business travelers in the future.
Domestic business travel accounted for $111.17 billion in 2017.
While international spending averaged $31.6 billion in 2017, domestic business travel accounted for more than three times as much. However, while the average spending per domestic traveler was $949, international globetrotters spent an average of almost three times that much - an average person would spend as much as $2,600 on an international business trip.
But it is proven that business travel always pays off. For every dollar spent on business travel, companies see a $2.9 increase in profit and up to $9.5 increase in revenue.
Accommodation takes up an average of 13% of a business traveler’s budget.
(JTB Business Travel)
Hotel rooms can be expensive, especially when you’re doing business in a high-class metropolis like New York City. While motels, hostels, and Airbnb services are experiencing a rise in popularity among business travelers, hotels still reign supreme, especially within corporate business travel policies.
JTB Business Travel, which measures average prices per diem (per day) of hotels, transport, and meals purchased on business trips shows that New York is the most expensive US city for accommodation. An average New York hotel room costs $385.08 per diem.
If we consider that NYC is home to some of the biggest international hotel franchises like Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons, it’s no wonder that it takes up the flattering first spot. The second most expensive city in the United States is San Francisco at $379.37 per diem, with Boston coming third at $337.64.
In 2018, nearly 700,000 business travelers booked rooms with Airbnb for Work.
Although hotels have a long tradition of accommodating business travelers, for the past few years, Airbnb is reversing the trend.
While domestic hotel rooms cost around $155 per night, Airbnb offers accommodation for only around $99. The company’s international prices are even lower - customers can book a room for an average of $75 as opposed to the $170 they would spend to book a hotel room.
78% of business travelers reported using Uber and other ride-hailing services.
With a global market value of $72 billion, Uber has turned the world of taxi drivers upside down. They are becoming the number one choice for corporate travelers who need a lift on their business trips.
Taxi companies aren’t the only ones suffering from this surge of Uber popularity. The rental car service industry - which thrived on corporate executives traveling for business - is also feeling the blow.
In 2016, the market was still shared relatively fairly between ride-hailing and rental-car services. With 40% of travelers preferring to rent a vehicle, and 46% opting for ride-hailing, the only obvious losers were taxi services who only saw 14% the share.
However, in 2018, ride-hailing won the war with 78% of business travelers reporting to have used and preferred services of companies like Uber and Lyft. Rental cars saw a significant decline at 23% and taxi drivers were all but obliterated, falling to 6%.
In 2018 meals and incidental expenses made up $135.9 billion of total business travel spending.
Meals stack up 21% of expenses for an average business traveler. In addition to meals, companies also include incidental expenses into the traveler's allowance.
According to the 2019 edition of the Business Travel News Corporate Travel Index, meals are most expensive in New York, at $144.85 per diem. The runner-up is San Francisco with meal prices averaging $119.22 per diem, and Boston comes in third at $109.16 per diem.
At $495.1 million, Deloitte spent more on business travel expenses than any other US company.
As one of the Big Four accounting companies, Deloitte is a household name when it comes to expertise, professionalism and, of course, profit. When it comes to travel, Deloitte prefers to book flights, rather than any other means of transportation.
However, you don’t get to the top just by mindless spending alone. Due to its huge number of employees and a vast network of international divisions, Deloitte created a global procurement team in 2017 to handle the company’s global airline and hotel bookings.
Deloitte also implemented an automated airfare price assurance program, and strengthened its pre-trip review and approval processes, making booking faster, cheaper and easier. The majority of flights (72%) were conducted in the United States.
The second spot was reserved for IBM, at $430 million. The bronze went to PwC with $317.6 million spent to fund their employees' business trips. All of their business travel expenses were credited to various airlines.
Some airlines earn as much as 75% of their total revenue from business travelers.
Airlines get most of their revenue directly from passengers. While business travelers make up only 12% in numbers, they are every airline’s most valuable customer.
According to 2019 data, business travelers usually make up at least twice as much in terms of profit. With first-class tickets sometimes costing 10 times the price of coach tickets, business travel statistics like these come as no surprise.
The data implies that in some cases, airlines earn as much as 75% of their total revenue of trips booked by business travelers of all sorts.
This is mostly due to companies booking first-class tickets for their emissaries traveling across the country. While corporate travel policies have a history of saving money on business trips, in more recent years, this trend is being steadily reversed.
Managers now insist on providing their employees maximum comfort and convenience, since it reflects well on overall productivity. This has pushed airlines to compete with each other in terms of services they offer, continually offering new benefits.
In 2019, four US cities landed on the map of the world’s most expensive cities for business travel.
(CNN) (JTB Business Travel)
Los Angeles and San Francisco have landed on the list of the 10 most expensive cities for business travel. This is a significant jump compared to the year before when only Washington DC and New York held positions on the list.
NYC business travel statistics indicate that the Big Apple is the most expensive city for business travelers, mostly due to hefty hotel prices. Moreover, renting a hotel room in New York costs an average of $385 per diem.
Washington currently holds fourth place in expenses, with San Francisco, and Los Angeles, at seventh and ninth place respectively.
The other five cities worldwide are Zurich, Paris, Reykjavik, Basel, and Bern. The United States and Switzerland dominate the list, with four cities each.
Live chat with travel agencies, much like in-person meetings, improves business.
While this is not related to business travel exclusively, it is fairly indicative of which direction the travel industry is headed. Especially if we consider that 59% of US business travelers always book their hotel themselves and 30% usually book their hotel themselves.
In 2017, 79% of travel industry businesses reported an increase in revenue after enabling a live chat option on their website. Any way you look at it, investing in live chat has a huge influence on customer experience. In the short-term, companies that introduced live chat reported a significant increase in new customers. In the long-run, it does wonders for repeat business.
However, 38% of surveyed users consider a poor live-chat experience the number one reason for frustration when handling their travels.
Demographics and general business travel statistics
Millennials are the fastest-growing group of business travelers in the United States.
Millennials are a rising force of the domestic economy in all sectors. This applies to business travel as well. According to a survey conducted by Skift, young adults in their late twenties/early thirties took 7.4 business trips in 2015.
Their older counterparts, popularly known as Gen Xers, were reported to have an average of 6.4 trips per year. Baby boomers came last with a 6.3 average.
While boomers prefer traditional accommodation, like hotels, younger travelers are more likely to go for non-chain hotels, Airbnb and other “room share” services. This is especially the case for millennials employed in the tech industry.
Also, travel statistics by age group suggest that the same target group most often uses low-cost air carriers, with 85% of them booking low-cost airlines in 2018.
On the other hand, ridesharing companies have experienced a huge growth in popularity among business travelers of all ages. As much as 81% of the survey’s respondents stated that they would take Uber or Lyft over taxis any day.
Millennials are 60% more-likely to purchase seats with extra legroom while flying, and spend some leisure time on their business trip.
(Forbes) (National Car Rental)
With 65% of millennials viewing business travel as a status symbol, additional legroom, as well as other benefits, are things they desire. That being said, they are also more likely to pay for additional headroom, roomier seats, and in-flight entertainment compared to the other two age groups.
Moreover, Millenials are most likely to consider business travel a perk when choosing a job, with nearly 90% of millennials seeking an advantage to extend their business trip into leisure. Other groups are not far behind, with 81% of Generation Xers and 80% of baby boomers also confirming that they like to make the most of the time they are given while away on business.
45% of millennials are prone to feeling guilty about mixing leisure with their business trips.
(Travel Agent Central)
While all business travelers like mixing business with leisure trips, they are also prone to feeling guilty about it. Around 45% of millennial respondents in a survey have reported having the so-called “bleisure travel stigma.” This means they believe they should avoid telling others about the fun times or personal activities they have on business trips.
While they are the least-likely to tell their bosses about their leisure time on business trips, millenials are most-likely to share photos of their adventures on social media.
However, regardless of their age or generation, managers (64%) and executive/senior leaders (67%) are also more likely to share their “bleisure” activities than non-managers (54 %) on social media.
This goes to show, as the employees become older and assume more senior positions within their companies, the stigma wears off. For example, 40% of Gen X respondents said they prefer keeping their personal activities during business trips private.
85% of frequent business travelers report having trouble balancing everyday work responsibilities while traveling for business.
(National Car Rental)
Employees that spend more than 88 days on the road per year showed an increase in breaking the business vs leisure barrier. “Bleisure” travelers reported working 9.1 hours a day, which is a whole hour less than the travelers who engage in strict travel for work purposes who clocked 10.1 hours on average per day.
The divide is real - 53% of business travelers state that finding time for leisure while on an official trip is next to impossible, as opposed to the 59% who manage to squeeze in some “me time” in the mix.
81% of all business trips in the United States are conducted by personal vehicles.
(National Car Rental)
The majority of business travelers still prefer to use their personal vehicles as transport whenever they can. This is mainly due to the fact that 74% of all domestic business trips are conducted within less than 250 miles from the point of departure, with most of those being less than 100 miles.
However, as the distance gets longer, more people turn to air travel. Around 97% of 50-to 99-mile trips, as well as nearly 94% of 100-to-249-mile trips, are conducted by personal vehicles. Once the range reaches 250-to-499 miles, the personal vehicle share sharply declines to 67% while those in favor of airplanes surges to 31%.
While distances over 1,000 miles account for only 7% of the total number of business trips, they are almost exclusively conducted by air travel.
Attending a conference is the number one reason for business trips for all age groups.
Around 62% of all respondents in the Skift 2016 survey stated that the main reason for business travel is usually to attend a conference of some sort. This was the case with 74% of millenials, 61% of Gen Xers, and 53% of boomers.
The second biggest reason (56%) of travel was to attend a meeting with people from another company for the purposes of business planning or customer service. Millennials once again took the lead with 77%, with Gen Xers as second at 56%, and boomers at 39%.
The third reason is professional development or training, with an average of 44% of all respondents naming this as their purpose of business travel. Broken down into individual age brackets, the numbers come down to 63% of millennials, 43% of Gen Xers, and 25% of baby boomers.
Business traveler demographics report that women account for approximately 47% of all business travelers.
While the usual stereotype implies that it is more common for men to take business trips, in recent years, the reality is closer to 50-50.
However, as women become more present in the business travel sphere, some specific safety issues arise. Female business traveler statistics focused on safety issues discovered that 90% of respondents named safety as the first thing that affected the activities pursued during personal time while on business travel.
The women who took part in the survey reported that such issues mostly affect their booking behavior (86%), where they prefer to exclusively book daytime flights, and rooms as close to the center of a city as possible.
Location is simply more important for women. For example, 84% cited that they tend to avoid cities and places that have a reputation for being unsafe. Furthermore, 81% indicated their travel frequency for business has also been affected by safety concerns, and 80% agree that such issues have had an impact on their productivity during business trips.
Nevertheless, the average business travel hotel user is still a middle-aged male.
As we’re all accustomed to seeing grey-haired men in suits and ties hanging around hotel lobbies, this fact is hardly a surprise. The average business travel hotel guest is male (63%), aged 35-54 (50%), employed in a professional or managerial position (56%) and earning an average yearly household income of $127,000.
As much as 78% travel alone, with the large majority of business travelers making reservations (95%). According to USA Today, The Hampton Inn and Suites was the favorite choice for corporate travelers in 2017.
Around 60% of companies have a travel policy, although employees prefer to handle booking themselves.
However, as much as 50% of surveyed companies allow travelers to book using any method they choose.
Furthermore, 46% of business travelers have reported preferring booking hotels on consumer sites and finding a better price, then relying on their company to do it for them.
As companies are led by other factors while choosing hotels, employees tend to think in more practical terms. That is why 37% of surveyed travelers reported having booked the hotels that were in the closest possible proximity of an established meeting place or conference location.
International travel statistics
China is the leading force when it comes to business travel spending.
(Global Business Travel Association) (CAPA)
With the United States spending more than $292 billion on business travel alone, China has reportedly reached a figure of $346.50 billion that funded their international corporate exploits.
China’s economic boom has launched the country’s corporate traveler to the very top of global business travel statistics. China dominates both regional and international statistics, with Japan and South Korea as traditional high-spenders in the region.
However, other players in the Asia-Pacific market, like India and Indonesia are making an appearance in the global business travel sector by growing at an incredible rate.
In 2014, India’s business travel market was worth $26 billion. Today it is forecast to reach $46 billion. As a country where economic activity is dominated by consumption, India’s business travel growth rate of 11.3 % is oriented more towards domestic than international.
On the other hand, Indonesia, which reported $17 billion in business travel spending in 2017, is a more trade-oriented country. This means that the country’s business-travel spending growth rate of 8.7% is focused on the international market rather than the domestic.
Europe is right behind China, holding 24% of total global business travel spending.
(Global Business Travel Association) (Blue Swan Daily)
Europe is home to some of the largest corporations in the world that rank the continent as second on a global scale when it comes to business travel spending. The largest part of this spending is attributed to developed Western European countries like Germany, the UK, and France.
In fact, a total of $364 billion in business travel spending was reported in Europe in 2017, with Western Europe claiming as much as $310 billion.
Traditional industrial powerhouses like Germany rated their business travel spending at about $72.07 billion in 2017, confirming the country’s unprecedented status in worldwide trade. France is also a powerhouse - the country spent more than $40 billion in 2016.
Spain spends around $20 billion in business travel, ranking 13th on the Global Business Travel Association’s list of the largest travel markets.
While most Western European economies have reported steady growth in business travel spending during the last few years, the United Kingdom has shown a 0.7% decline in 2017, largely due to the Brexit political crisis.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How often do people travel for business?
An estimated 1.3 million business trips occur in the United States on a daily basis – 463 million trips per year in the United States alone.
2. How many business travelers fly each year?
Around 12% of the total number of flights is reserved by business travelers. In 2017 the US Department of Transportation reported that US airlines and foreign airlines serving the United States hosted 965 million domestic and international scheduled service passengers.
3. What percent of airline travel is for business?
Although business travelers make up only 12% in numbers, they are every airline’s most valuable customer. The data implies that in some cases, airlines earn as much as 75% of their total revenue of trips booked by business travelers of all sorts.
4. Do airlines charge business travelers more?
No. However, the circumstances of a typical business traveler affect the price of a plane ticket. Factors that usually affect the cost of flying for a business traveler are: flying on short notice, arranging a flight at a desirable time of day, and flying to a popular destination.
I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.
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