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by Matt Alderton | April 15, 2015
Driven by continued growth in the U.S. economy, business travel volume and spending will increase in the United States over the next two years, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), which yesterday published its latest business travel forecast: the "GBTA BTI Outlook - United States 2015 Q1" report.

In it, GBTA predicts that business travel spending will rise 3.1 percent in 2015, to $295.7 billion, while business travel volume will increase 1.7 percent to 492.1 million trips.

"The expected increase in U.S. business travel volume is an excellent indicator of how the overall domestic economy is faring, with every sector and consumer spending performing better than we've seen since 2009," GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick said in a statement. "Thanks to a healthier domestic economy and a stronger U.S. dollar, companies are putting more travelers on the road not only because they can afford to, but because they continue to see a strong return on their business travel investment."

Group travel is expected to do particularly well, according to GBTA, which forecasts that group travel volume will grow 1.6 percent this year and another 2.5 percent in 2016, after declining 1.9 percent in 2014. Likewise, it predicts, group travel spending will grow 3.1 percent this year and another 5.2 percent in 2016.

Other key predictions:

• Thanks to plummeting oil prices, the cost of air travel, ground transportation, and rental cars will moderate in 2015. In aggregate, GBTA reports, travel prices will only rise 1.4 percent this year before returning to more normal levels in 2016.

• Despite strong domestic figures, GBTA expects volatility in international outbound travel over the next seven quarters due to uncertainty in the global economy. Still, it expects spending on international outbound travel to increase 5 percent this year and another 6.9 percent in 2016.

• GBTA forecasts that transient business travel volume will grow 1.7 percent this year on its way to 304 million person-trips; spending on transient business travel, it expects, will grow 2.7 percent to $131 billion.
 
Included in all "GBTA BTI Outlook" reports is the Business Travel Index (BTI), a headline measure of the current and projected level of business travel in a given market. Before the economic downturn, in late 2007, the BTI in the United States was 120. Currently, it's 131. By the end of 2015 and 2016, GBTA predicts, it will be 140 and 145, respectively.

"The BTI forecast continues to be a strong indicator of the state of business travel, adept at predicting trouble spots and growth signals," concluded GBTA Foundation Vice President of Research Joseph Bates. "The economic recovery continues to pick up steam but lower prices have kept spending in check."