Belfast Telegraph

Think-tank urges business travel boost

Boosting international business travel to pre-recession levels within the next five years could add up to £6.5 billion to the value of UK trade, a think-tank has claimed.

The average foreign business trip triggers a £34,000 contribution to gross domestic product, according to a new report from Oxford Economics.

The Value of International Business Travel report says international business air travel rose by 12% between 2010 and 2014, following an "extensive decline" of 26% in the preceding four-year period around the financial crisis of 2008.

The report was commissioned by the GTMC, the travel management sector's trade body.

Its chief executive, Paul Wait, urged the Government to look at airport expansion, saying air travel in particular was "critical for a vibrant economy, and a strategic consideration for companies looking to grow".

"Furthermore, the business travel sector is a major contributor to UK trade, powering foreign direct investment, exports and imports," he said.

"The magnitude of the impact of business travel on economic performance and foreign investment within the UK is staggering - the value of business travel cannot be underestimated. The GTMC's report shows that factors heavily influencing business travel growth, such as airport expansion, need to be urgently addressed with these numbers in mind."

Last week business groups called on the Government to act now and give the green light to a third runway at Heathrow after the airport announced a raft of measures including plans to ban night flights.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) said the Government had "run out of excuses" and must make a decision before the summer parliamentary recess.

A survey of its business leaders by the IoD last year revealed that only 3% believe current British airport infrastructure is adequate.

Nearly two thirds - 61% - also supported a new runway at Heathrow, with 39% backing Gatwick.

The OE report found that a return to pre-recession business travel levels could lead add £1.6 billion in foreign direct investment by non-British firms - equal to 5% of the UK total in 2012.

It also said a 1% increase in business air travel volume could equate to a £400 million trade boost, with increases affecting exports more than imports.

It also found "strong evidence that greater trade and FDI provide a boost to productivity."

Dr Nishaal Gooroochurn, head of econometrics at OE, said that if the rebound continued to pre-crisis levels it would have a "remarkable impact on the UK economy".

He added: "If international business air travel volumes continue on the upward trajectory that they have enjoyed since 2010, then the return to the wider UK economy would be significant. Our findings demonstrate the huge worth of business travel as an industry sector to the UK."