Not too long ago, business travel was largely limited to certain parts of the world. Now, business travelers regularly venture to dozens of countries on six different continents. The past 15 years alone have seen explosive growth in the business travel market driven by this phenomenon. According to GBTA research, global business travel spending totaled approximately $633 billion in 2000. In 2014, total spending was close to $1.2 trillion – an increase of more than 86 percent.
This expansion in business travel resulted largely from a dynamically integrated global economy. As the global economy has expanded beyond the U.S., Western Europe, Japan, and Australia there has been a rapid expansion of travel among and between developed and developing markets. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are now major travel markets. Korea, Mexico, Argentina, parts of Eastern Europe, Malaysia, Thailand, and parts of Africa are growing rapidly as they take their place in the global economy.
Part of the growth of these developing markets has resulted from multinational corporations expanding in search of untapped market potential. But much more of this growth has resulted from the development of businesses based in those countries and the increased purchasing power of a percentage of their residents.
The feature article in this issue of the magazine focuses on the International Monetary Fund and its Managing Director, Christine Lagarde. The IMF works to foster global and economic stability throughout the world and has been instrumental in supporting economic growth in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe, among other areas. The Fund provides development financing, such as loans to assist in the construction of key infrastructure projects. It helps structure stock exchanges and other mechanisms by which businesses and merchants exchange goods and services. It also operates a range of anti-poverty programs, which are critical to the growth and sustainability of a national economy.
One of the major challenges of doing business internationally is that countries operate according to various rules. Different nations have different systems of taxation and place different values on contracts and laws directly related to international business. Not surprisingly, these legal and policy differences affect the business travel industry. Travel managers must be aware of these various regulations in order to ensure the safe and productive passage of their companies’ employees.
At GBTA, we are working to ensure that our travel professional members have the knowledge they need to keep abreast of the rapidly evolving international business travel landscape. We are constantly refining and updating our education and certification programs to incorporate the latest developments throughout the world – including many areas where we had little involvement as recently as five years ago. And we continue to work with policy makers to limit the barriers to business travel.
I encourage you to think about the opportunities and challenges that come with growing global commerce and what this will mean for your companies. No two ways about it: We all play an integral role in the evolution of the global economy.