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Business travel flight data for 2015 unveils USA trade dominance

Data exclusive to the GTMC – the industry body for the UK’s business travel sector – shows that flights from the UK to the USA outnumbered flights taken by business travellers to the fastest growing emerging economies in the world by over four times during 2015. The assessment of flights booked by Travel Management Company (TMC) members of the GTMC in 2015 highlights a major dominance in business travel to the world’s most established economies ahead of emerging and growth markets.

Plus, the number of business travel flights to the 13 countries in the world with the highest projected compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) is just 1.5 per cent that of all air travel to the seven largest economies in the world.  

Paul Wait, chief executive, the GTMC, comments:   “It isn’t surprising the flights taken by business travellers from the UK are focused on stable and established economies, however it is concerning that travel to emerging destinations is so comparatively low when it comes to future planning. The GTMC is behind the swift approval of UK airport expansion in order to allow more flights to more emerging economies. This is clearly needed to allow businesses to grow and expand in the markets around the world with the most potential.”   

Key highlights of the 2015 business travel flight data include:
• Travel to the growth economies of the world is dominated by Asian destinations, despite a majority of the fastest growing emerging markets in the world being located in the Middle East and Africa according to the World Bank
• Business travellers flying to the largest economies of the world are heavily focused on European countries and the USA
• European cities account for almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of business travel from the UK to the financial stock markets around the world

Growth markets - developing world
According to the World Bank, out of the 13 countries in the world with the highest projected compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) 69 per cent are in the Middle East and Africa, 23 per cent are in Asia and 8 per cent are in Australasia.  

However, the GTMC’s data shows that the air travel to business travellers’ top ten most popular destinations by volume does not reflect the huge growth bias in the Middle East and Africa. Just 16 per cent is to the growth economies of the Middle East and Africa, whereas 84 per cent of the top ten destinations visited by business travellers are in Asia.  

When looking at specifically the last quarter of 2015 (October – December 2015), the bias to Asia is exaggerated to 88 per cent.   

Heathrow heavily leads travel to growth and emerging markets, accounting for 78 per cent of the trips. For the last quarter of 2015 the dominance of Heathrow as the departure airport dips slightly and accounts for 73 per cent of trips to growth economies, a reduction of five per cent.    

World’s largest economies
Data looking at the destinations of business travellers to the seven largest economies in the world (USA, China, Japan, Germany, France, India and Italy) shows a very heavy dominance of travel to European countries compared to those further afield. There are almost six-times as many journeys to the European top economies by business travellers than there is to those in Asia. And there are over three times more flights by business travellers to the USA than Asia.  

Financial centres – stock market cities
Travel to the most established financial centres in the world - cities with stock markets - is very European focused. 73 per cent of flights made by business travellers in 2015 was to European destinations. Just 0.8 per cent of travel within the 20 stock market cities is to South America, and 12.4 per cent is to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.  

The data for the last quarter of 2015 shows that the European financial centre cities held firm as dominant destinations with three quarters (75 per cent) of flights taken to European capitals.  

Top destinations by volume
When specifically looking at the top ten destination choices of those starting their business travel trips from Heathrow, there is no country featured that is also considered one of the fastest growing emerging economies of the world.  

Out of the top ten destinations from Heathrow airport for business travellers in 2015, 63.5 per cent of trips were to the USA, 19 per cent to the Middle East and Africa, and 17.5 per cent were to destinations in Asia. For just the last quarter of 2015, there is a jump in travel to Asia to almost a quarter (23 per cent) of business travel flights.  

The regional airport breakdown (all UK airports excluding Heathrow) is much more diverse with 39 per cent of trips to the USA, 32 per cent to the Middle East and Africa and 19 per cent to Asia. Plus, the Caribbean (six per cent), South America (two per cent) and Europe (two per cent) also feature in the top destinations from all other UK airports excluding Heathrow.  

Paul Wait continues:   “In 2015 Heathrow dominated heavily for business travellers. There are three times as many business travellers departing Heathrow to the top ten destinations as there are from all other UK airports. However, the popular flight routes from Heathrow for business travellers are heavily biased towards the USA. There is significant gap between those markets with the most growth potential, based particularly in the Middle East and Africa, and both the desire and ability of business travellers to fly to those destinations. More needs to be done to aid businesses looking to explore and export to the fastest growing economies of the world.”  

The GTMC has analysed over half a million flights booked by member Travel Management Companies (TMCs) specifically looking at travel from the UK to the countries in the world whose economies have the highest projected compound growth (CAGR); the top ten destinations from Heathrow and all other UK airports; travel between the UK and 20 cities with a financial stock market; and travel from the UK to the seven largest economies of the world. The data is compiled by the 7R Group.

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