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International business travel declining amid inflation, report finds

International business trips in the first quarter of 2024 were down nearly 20% compared to the same period a year ago as companies increasingly favored domestic travel amid persistent inflationary pressures, a new report from HotelHub finds.

The Q1 2024 HotelHub Index analyzed more than 15 million hotel bookings since the start of 2022, including nearly 2 million from the first three months of this year. With international trips that quarter declining 19% year over year, domestic bookings now represent 62% of all corporate travel, up from a 52% share in Q1 2023.

“On the whole, business travel is still growing but there are some concerning trends in this data,” said Paul Raymond, director of business development at HotelHub, which uses a cloud-based platform to help travel management companies book hotel stays. “A reduction in international trips is often an indicator of overall business confidence and broader spending in the corporate sector. The rate of inflation may be falling in some areas of the economy, but in hospitality we’re still seeing significant price increases that many corporate travel departments are finding challenging.”

The decline in international travel marks a break with the gradual recovery of overseas business travel seen since the end of the pandemic, the report concluded. This move suggests companies remain cautious in an uncertain economic environment and are likely dispatching staff based within a country rather than allocating budget for costlier international trips.

The index shows the average room rate per night continues to rise, growing by 8% between Q1 2023 and Q1 2024 on a global basis, increasing from an average of $164 to $177 per night. In just two years average rates have increased by 12% in New York, 22% in London and 27% in Paris.

Signs also point to business travelers condensing trips to stay within budget as the average cost of a trip increased by 7% from $414 in Q1 2023 to $442 in Q1 2024. In Asia, the average duration of stay has decreased by 8%, and in the Middle East and Africa, it has decreased by 11%. Despite this trend, the average international length of stay has increased by 5.3%, indicating that while international travel is less frequent, business travelers are extending trips to accomplish more when they do fly.

As for domestic travel, growth is most pronounced in Asia (46% increase) and Europe (30% increase). In North America, 81% of stays are now domestic, reflecting a 5% increase compared with Q1 2023.

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