New York, NY and Alexandria, VA, February 17, 2011 – New research conducted by American Express Global Business Travel and the GBTA Foundation (Global Business Travel Association) benchmarks the travel spending businesses require to help support their growth. It further explores the change in this suggested optimal spending level depending on the economic conditions and business characteristics, including industry. The study suggests that travel can be an overlooked means to gain competitive advantage, and those companies that regard travel expenditures as indirect costs to be minimized cut into a key established expansion driver.

This new study, Return on Investment Refresh: Travel as a Competitive Advantage,is the continuation of research initiated in 2009 which first explored the link between travel and business growth. This latest research offers further evidence of travel’s compelling link to corporate growth, and through benchmarking data provides guidance to businesses on the ideal level of travel spending needed to drive revenue in both expansionary and recessionary periods. Additionally it identifies industries in which the optimal level has likely been reached and industries where opportunities remain to reach their potential.

Competitive Advantage: Approaching Business Travel as a Key Growth Driver

The research analyzed business travel spending from a sample of nearly 900 public companies across the past decade of economic cycles. The findings indicate business travel is a contributing factor in helping companies drive revenue:

  • To reach optimal revenue potential, keeping all other factors constant, the study indicates U.S. industries could increase business travel spending by an average of just over four percent (4%).
  • This translates to an average of just over $70 dollars more per worker.
  • The percentage of under-spend varies when looking at specific industry sectors — business services, entertainment and sports sectors typically already operate closer to optimal levels while banking and finance, pharmaceutical and retail companies could likely benefit from greater business travel spending growth.
  • The economy-wide average return on investment to business travel spending is about 20-to-1, meaning that for every $1 strategically invested in business travel, businesses have seen an average of $20 in additional gross profit.

Company Characteristics Considered When Evaluating Optimal Travel

The research also looked at key company attributes as a way to help quantify factors that affect total travel expenditures in the marketplace today. The characteristics for consideration when identifying optimal travel spending include, but are not limited to:

  • Size of the business
  • International presence
  • Industry
  • How far the company’s locations are from its supply chain and demand markets
  • Corporate culture
  • The use of technology
  • How productive the firm is in managing its travel spending

“This study further affirms the link between business travel spending and corporate growth, giving businesses a reason to think about travel as an essential investment and not just a bottom-line expense to incrementally reduce year after year,” said Christa Degnan Manning, director, eXpert insights and Research, Advisory Services, American Express Global Business Travel. “Companies can use this study as a guidepost in evaluating optimal levels of spending appropriate for their business objectives based on corporate characteristics, as well as benchmarking themselves relative to their peers. Considering optimal spending within a managed travel program that also includes virtual meeting solutions is a key component to achieving a balanced, successful program.”

“With this research corporations have the ability to take their managed program to the next level and use the benchmarking data to competitively manage their budget, by understanding if they are operating at their optimal level. Business travel is a key component to the success of a company and business travel buyers must play a role by working directly with the C-level to drive revenue growth,” said Craig Banikowski, president & CEO, Global Business Travel Association. “Now that the economy is in recovery, companies have a chance to optimize their travel spending, creating new connections and new growth.”


ROI Refresh: Travel as a Competitive Advantage is based on an econometric model developed in partnership with Vantage Strategy LLC by analyzing sales data for nearly 900 public companies, business travel spending, and other key economic drivers to determine the relationship between business travel expenditures and top-line revenue spanning the time frame 1998-2009. It looked at 14 U.S. industries specifically and also economy-wide measures for the U.S. as a whole. Given the U.S. is the largest business travel market and represents a quarter of the world’s business travel spending, this model can be applied to businesses operating in other markets as well. Primary data sources include American Express Global Business Travel Business Travel air travel spending data, Bureau of Economic Analysis, company attribute data from Dun & Bradstreet, GBTA Foundation, Vantage Strategy and Thomson Reuters Worldscope data. The new research is a follow up of American Express Global Business Travel Business Travel’s and GBTA Foundation’s 2009 report, Are Businesses Investing Competitively? An Examination of the ROI of Business Travel.

ROI Refresh: Travel as a Competitive Advantage is available to subscribers of eXpert insights, American Express Global Business Travel Global Advisory Services’ research service, at the following link as well as to GBTA Members through

About American Express Global Business Travel

American Express Global Business Travel (, a division of American Express Global Business Travel Company, is committed to helping its clients maximize the return on their travel investment through increased cost savings, world-class customer service and greater spending control. With clients ranging from small businesses to multinational corporations, American Express Global Business Travel provides a combination of industry-leading technology, travel management consulting, strategic sourcing and supplier negotiation support, alongside global customer service available online and offline. The Company also provides a dynamic online community ( harnessing the collective intelligence of those in the business travel industry offering a variety of perspectives, best practices, current research and industry news.

American Express Global Business Travel operates one of the world’s largest travel agency networks with locations in over 140 countries worldwide. Total travel sales volume in 2009 was $21.5 billion, including proprietary volume, volume processed through joint ventures, and American Express Global Business Travel branded volume processed through its partner network.

American Express Global Business Travel Company is a global services company, providing customers with access to tools, insights, and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at and connect with us on, and

About the Global Business Travel Association

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s premier business travel and meetings organization. Collectively, GBTA’s 5,000-plus members manage over $340 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA provides its network of 17,000 business and government travel and meetings managers, as well as travel service providers, with networking events, news, education & professional development, research, and advocacy. For more information, visit


American Express Global Business Travel
Erica Rose
[email protected]

Global Business Travel Association
Elie Jacobs
[email protected]

Sarah Hawkins
[email protected]

American Express Global Business Travel (“GBT”) is a joint venture that is not wholly-owned by American Express Company or any of its subsidiaries (“American Express”). “American Express Global Business Travel”, “American Express” and the American Express logo are trademarks of American Express, and are used under limited license.