by Michael J. Shapiro | October 16, 2013
The government shutdown poses a real threat to the otherwise rosy forecast of business travel growth in the coming year, according to the Global Business Travel Association. This year's final GBTA BTI Outlook-United States projects a 7.2 percent growth in business travel spending for 2014, to $288.8 billion, as well as a 1.6 percent growth in the number of trips taken, to 459.2 million. But a survey of 257 of the association's travel-professional members reveals that the government shutdown already is taking a toll and has the potential to derail that growth. As of last week, two-thirds of respondents were concerned that a shutdown longer than one week would negatively affect their business, while 59 percent were concerned about the negative effects a government default would have. About 40 percent said that the shutdown had already affected them, their company or their company's employees. Lost employees, canceled bookings, canceled meetings and processing delays for passports and visas were already problems for a number of respondents.

A prolonged government shutdown and/or default could be particularly bad news for meetings: Currently, group spending is forecast to show its strongest increase since 2011, with a 7.2 percent year-over-year increase, to $124.1 billion. Outbound international travel also is expected to rise significantly, with a 12.4 percent gain, to $36.6 billion. "The current government shutdown and potential default couldn't have come at a worse time," said GBTA executive director and COO Michael W. McCormick. "Just as we're finally turning a corner, all of these gains are being put at risk." The GBTA BTI report is available free to members here. Nonmembers can purchase it for $499 by emailing