Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg

Business Travelers in U.S. Take More Trips While Spending Less

U.S. business travelers are taking more trips this year, though companies are being stricter on authorizing international visits in the wake of global economic concerns and the collapse of oil prices.

The number of U.S.-originated business trips will increase 0.7 percent to 499.2 million in 2015, estimated the Global Business Travel Association. Spending will be 3.1 percent higher at $292 billion, less than the 4.9 percent growth the association projected in July.

Total spending per trip has fallen as U.S. companies are more selective about traveling abroad because of the economic risks associated with China, Russia and the Middle East, the group said. The belt-tightening can be seen as a warning sign for the U.S. economy because spending on travel is one of the most important investments for companies, said Executive Director Michael McCormick.

“Business travel is really a leading indicator,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s still healthy, but caution is the word.”

The global decline in oil prices has increased companies’ caution without translating into much savings for travelers, the group said. While the average airfare for a domestic round trip has fallen to $379 this year from $392 in 2014, higher baggage and other fees have canceled out the benefit.

The GBTA also revised its estimate for business travel spending in 2016. It now expects an increase of 3.7 percent to $303 billion, less than a July projection of 5.4 percent growth.

“We could see next year where we won’t see any significant growth in the travel,” McCormick said.

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