Los Angeles is the celebrity capital of the country, and the celebs were in evidence at the Global Business Travel Association’s annual convention. Academy Award–winning actor Kevin Spacey spoke about his many films, including “The Usual Suspects” and “Seven”; his 10 years as artistic director of The Old Vic theater in London; and, most recently, his work on the Emmy Award–nominated Netflix series, “House of Cards.” Right after, on thefloor, LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant could be spotted above the crowd taking selfies with lucky winners of a Turkish Airlines raffle promotion.
There was a renewed sense of vitality at the event, reflective of the business travel industry’s revival after six years of stunted growth. GBTA’s global annual report and forecast, released at the show, predicted that business travel will grow more quickly than previously forecast, at a rate of 6.9 percent this year to $ 1.18 billion. During a session on GBTA’s Business Travel Index (BTI) through 2018, Jon Gray, vice president of analytics and insight for Rockport Analytics, predicted that 2014 will be the best year for business travel in the U.S. since 2011. “We do think the worst is behind us,” he told the audience.
On the list of the 13 countries with the highest business travel spending, all but four are back to pre–recession levels. The biggest numbers are in China, with 17 percent growth in business travel expected this year alone, and 18 percent next year. That country’s business travel spending has grown 40 percent since the BTI was created by GBTA in 2005, and China is expected to surpass the United States as the country with the highest business travel spending in 2015.
Also fueling the growth in the global business travel industry are Brazil, which accounts for 61 percent of all Latin American business travel, and India, which, Gray says, after the election of its new president, “appears to be on an upward path.”
GBTA’s star-studded lineup continues throughout the week, with Twitter founder Biz Stone speaking on Tuesday and Seinfeld star Jason Alexander on Wednesday.