The business travel industry is faring better and the economic recovery is continuing to progress according to a recent survey of North American travel buyers by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). The 2011 Industry Pulse: Business Travel Buyers’ Sentiment also found that expected increases in air and hotel rates are major contributors to growing corporate travel budgets. “We’re seeing buyers bracing for higher fares by beefing up their budgets while also looking to get more travelers on the road. Corporate travel buyers will play an increasingly important role as stewards of corporate growth in the face of expected rate and fee increases,” said Craig Banikowski, CCTE, C.P.M., CMM, GBTA President & CEO. “By continuing to focus on the elements of a well managed travel program, buyers will be able to get the most value from each dollar invested while making their travelers’ lives easier and more productive.” Highlights from the Annual Industry Pulse Report include: More than half (60%) of travel buyers surveyed feel the economy is doing better than it was one year ago, and nearly as many (57%) feel it will continue to improve over the coming year. Although buyers said that more trips (59%) and more travelers (37%) will continue to increase travel spend, they most often cited increased airline fees (71%) and higher rates/fares (69%) as contributors to larger travel budgets. International travel is gaining momentum. Buyers projected international spend would comprise 34% of total travel spend in 2011, up from 31% of total spend in 2010 and 28% in 2009. Evidence that higher rates and fees are impacting travel budgets is found in the average rates/fees that travel buyers expect to pay in 2011. With the exception of domestic car rentals, buyers expect average rates/fares to rise between 3% and 5.5% in 2011. Michael W. McCormick, GBTA’s executive director and COO, GBTA, said, “International travel is a key driver in the increases we’re seeing in total travel spend. There is fertile ground for growth abroad and companies are reflecting this thinking by traveling to new and faster-growing international markets. This investment should pay off as companies unearth new opportunities and participate in the global economy.”