The majority of corporate travel buyers expect the recovery to bring a slow but steady increase in meetings and business travel next year. That’s according to the results of a new survey of 180 “direct” (corporate travel buyer) members of the National Business Travel Association conducted in August and September. According to NBTA's 2010 Business Travel Buyers' Cost Forecast, a full 69 percent of the respondents expect to see their business-travel volume “grow slowly” throughout 2010—a huge leap from last year’s survey when just 28 percent expected an uptick.

When asked about 2009 travel, 27 percent of respondents reported no change or even an increase in their spend during this year’s downturn, primarily in the pharmaceutical, financial services, consulting, and education/training industries.

The positive outlook also translates into good news for meetings: Though 58 percent of respondents said that reducing the number of meetings would still be one of the measures used to cut costs in 2010, that number was significantly lower than last year, when 85 percent of respondents said they planned to cut meetings to hold down costs. There was a similar pattern reported for the number of attendees at events: Although 69 percent said they would reduce numbers to cut costs in 2010, that percentage was much higher in last year’s survey, when 84 percent said they planned to cut attendance.

Among the top cost-containment steps buyers said they will take in the coming year are auditing of travel and entertainment expenses (84 percent), enforcing travel policies (77 percent), mandating online booking (76 percent), and reducing nonessential travel (71 percent).

Strategic meetings management will also be top of mind for many survey participants in 2010, with 53 percent saying they plan to centralize their meetings and start implementing SMM in the coming year—more than twice as many as last year (22 percent).

For more information, the full report is available at the NBTA Web site.