Business travel stages fragile recovery: American Express

2nd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Business travel is picking up after a sharp downturn in the 2009 economic crisis but its recovery is likely to remain fragile until next year, a top executive with American Express said Thursday.

Charles Petruccelli, responsible for the corporate travel unit at the US financial services group, told AFP in an interview that American Express had noted "double-digit growth in the number of transactions in most (business travel) markets" so far this year.

Business travel shrank by around 20 percent last year.

In the first half to June, US business travel rose 15 percent after a decline of 21 percent in the same period of 2009.

Petruccelli said Europe showed a gain of 9.0 percent and Asia and Latin American 35-40 percent but overall, the business travel sector had yet to return to 2008 pre-crisis levels.

He described China as fertile ground for the corporate travel unit at American Express. China in five years should become its second largest market after the United States, leaving France in third place.

"The volume of business in Greater China (mainland China plus Hong Kong and Taiwan) should exceed a billion dollars (780 million euros) in 2011," up from 800 million dollars at present, Petruccelli predicted.

He noted that in confronting the crisis, many businesses had "clearly changed their practices," preferring video conferences to meetings that come with travel expenses.

"We have changed from being an agency that issues tickets to a company that advises and accompanies businesses, proposing management solutions and ways to optimise their business travel."

© 2010 AFP

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