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Growth of business travel spending is slowing, study finds

Firms are expected to spend 2.6% more this year than in 2011, when spending climbed 7.2% compared with the previous year.

October 15, 2012|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • Delays rank among the top five most stressful situations reported by business travelers. Above, Natasha Tottenham of London sits outside Terminal 2 last year at Los Angeles International Airport while she waits for her flight.
Delays rank among the top five most stressful situations reported by business… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

After a dramatic slump during the economic recession, spending on business travel in the U.S. climbed in 2010 and 2011.

But business travel spending is slowing down, perhaps a sign of anxiety in corporate America over the still-shaky economy, turmoil in Europe and slower growth in China, said a report by the Global Business Travel Assn., the trade group for the world's travel managers.

"Corporations are in a wait-and-see mode and holding back on investment decisions that would help boost the economy," said Michael W. McCormick, the executive director of the group.

The study, sponsored by Visa Inc., predicted U.S. businesses will spend a total of $257 billion in 2012, a 2.6% increase over the previous year. The increase sounds like good news except that the projected growth pales in comparison with the 5.1% increase in spending in 2010 and the 7.2% increase in 2011, according to the study.

The bad news is that the report attributes most of the spending increase to a rise in travel costs, not in a higher number of trips. The report predicted 438 million business trips will be made in the U.S. this year, a drop of 1.6% from the 445 million trips in 2011.

Study identifies stress factors during work trips

Business travel can be bad for your health.

That was the conclusion of a Columbia University study last year that found high obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure rates among those who travel the most for work.

Now a new study by CWT Solutions Group, a travel management consultant, identifies those things that cause the most stress to travelers and possibly lead to health problems.

Here are the top five sources of stress, based on a ranking from zero to 100, with 100 being the most stressful:

Lost or delayed luggage (79)

Poor or no Internet connection (77)

Getting stuck in an economy seat on a medium or long-haul flight (73)

Delays (72)

Inconvenient departure or arrival times (69)

The survey also found that travel stress increases with age and travel frequency and that women report higher stress levels than men.

What upsets women the most? Women get more stressed than men over losing luggage and not being able to eat healthfully, the report found. Meanwhile, men get more upset than women about flying in economy seats on long flights.

The authors of the report said the findings can help businesses make changes in the way they plan travel to reduce stress and increase productivity among workers.

For example, the report suggested that booking employees in economy seats might save money but could end up costing more in the long run on lost productivity from stress-related illnesses.

"When travelers are traveling for business, they need to be productive," said Michelle Surkamp, a spokeswoman for CWT Solutions. "This study is meant to help travel managers keep stress levels down."

Public Wi-Fi use up 240% in last year despite risks

Despite the fear of identity theft and threats from computer viruses, the use of public wireless Internet access has jumped 240% in the last 12 months, a new survey has found.

The top log-in sites were coffee shops and restaurants (75%), hotels (54%) and airports (38%), according to an online survey of 377 people by the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center in partnership with Private WiFi, a firm that develops online protection software.

Still, Internet users are aware of the risks of using public Wi-Fi. Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they feared they could be victims of identify theft. Nonetheless, 24% of those surveyed said they made an online purchase using a credit card and 57% accessed sensitive work-related material.

The survey's authors suggest users of public Wi-Fi log on with a virtual private network, or VPN, to protect their data. But 44% of those surveyed said they didn't know there was a way to protect themselves while using public Wi-Fi.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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