by Michael J. Shapiro | July 10, 2013
Group travel is picking up and should increase for 2013, according to recent reports from hotel technology provider TravelClick and the Global Business Travel Association. Leisure and business transient bookings are still driving occupancy and rate growth, according to the June 2013 TravelClick North American Hospitality Review, but the group outlook for the remainder of 2013 is stronger than it has been in recent months. "We are particularly encouraged to see an improvement in new group sales," noted TravelClick executive vice president of business intelligence Tim Hart. "The most recent data showed that group room nights added over the last month exceeded the same period last year by 8 percent, improving the overall outlook for the group segment headed into the back half of the year." For the second quarter, group occupancy is up 4.6 percent year-over-year and average daily rate is up by 3.6 percent. For committed bookings through May 2014, group occupancy is up by 1.6 percent over this period last year, while average daily rate has increased by 1.8 percent. Overall occupancy for the next 12 months (including transient bookings) is up by 2.3 percent, with a 3.4 percent rise in ADR.

According to the latest quarterly forecast from the Global Business Travel Association, group travel spending is expected to grow by 5.3 percent in 2013, to $117.1 billion, although group travel volume is expected to decrease slightly, by 0.3 percent, to 166 million individual attendee trips. The organization has upgraded last quarter's overall business travel spending forecast for the year, and is now predicting a 4.3 percent year-over-year increase, to $273.3 billion. That improvement is driven in large part by domestic travel, a shift from recent years. "With the U.S. economy moving into a more stable growth mode," said GBTA executive director and COO Michael W. McCormick, "companies are seizing on opportunities closer to home. The rise in domestic business travel spending is a positive sign of increasing business confidence and bodes well for future employment growth."