March 31--China could surpass the U.S. as early as next year as the world's biggest spender in business travel, a year sooner than business travel experts had previously forecast.
With China's gross domestic product growing at a slow but steady pace, the world's most populous country is expected to increase spending on business travel by 16.5% in 2014 to $262.1 billion and 17.8% in 2015 to $309 billion, according to the Global Business Travel Assn. Foundation.
The foundation--the education arm for the world's business traveler managers--had previously predicted that China would overtake the U.S. as the top spender on business travel by 2016.
"The growth in China's economy has been unprecedented, propelling the country's business travel market to the second largest market in the world driven by real spending gains for rising business travel demand in both transient and group meetings and events," said Welf J. Ebeling, regional director for GBTA Asia.
Spending on business travel from China now represents about 20% of the world's global business travel market, up from 5% in 2000, the GBTA estimates.
But about 95% of the growth in China's business travel has been driven by domestic travel spending, the group said.
To keep up with the growth, China has been building new airports and expanding existing airports. A previous study showed that China has plans underway to build nearly 1,700 hotel projects, adding about 435,000 hotel rooms.