The European economic outlook got a boost this weekend with the release of a study that sees business-travel spending rising more than 6 percent this year and next in key markets, including Germany and the U.K. Published by the Global Business Travel Association, the study forecasts the largest uptick in business travel in Europe since 2009, when travel-related revenue amounted to $172 billion, depressed by the global financial crisis. In 2016, Germany and the U.K., along with France, Italy and Spain, are expected to rack up some $211 billion in travel expenses, 70 percent of the overall travel spending in Western Europe.
In the past six years, European travel spending has risen at an annual clip of roughly 2.4 percent, making the predicted pickups in 2015 and 2016 a significant jump in business travel, according to the report.
"The European economy is gathering steam and beginning to put its economic woes in the rear-view mirror," said Catherine McGavock, the association's regional vice president, according to Reuters.
Business travel is seen as a key economic indicator. Companies increase their travel spending when economic hopes brighten and cut back on flights and hotel reservations when prospects dim. After the 2008 financial crisis, business travel in the U.K. fell by nearly 9 percent as companies struggled to rein in expenses.
The good news for European business comes as the wider global economy has hit a soft patch. Last month, the International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for 2016 global economic growth to 3.1 percent from 3.3 percent, as emerging markets from China to Brazil suffered declines in production and demand. Global shipping giant Maersk saw its earnings fall more than 60 percent in the third quarter amid stalling demand.
Still, the export-heavy German economy is expected to see the largest boost in travel spending, amounting to 9.5 percent in 2016. That increase apparently will come despite an expected drop in shipments to China, whose economy has hit the skids in the past several quarters.
Meanwhile, France and Italy should expect increases in travel spending of just 3.4 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively. Like many other European countries, those nations have seen relatively sluggish economic growth in recent years.