Emburse processes more than $80 billion per year in employee expenses, invoices, and card payments. In each of our SpendSmart reports, we analyze this data to determine trends and patterns across a broad spectrum of business spend categories.
Emburse's quarterly SpendSmart Travel Trends report provides a view into how much organizations spend on travel, as well as trends for booking volume and trip length. This analysis compares travel volume and cost in the Q4 (October-November-December) period from 2019 to 2022, and is based on booking transactions within the U.S. (or originating from, for international air travel).
Domestic air travel continues to see consistent growth. In Q4 2022, domestic flights saw an 84% increase over the same quarter in 2021, which is only 11% lower than in Q4 2019. From a spend perspective, companies spent 80% more on domestic air travel in Q4 2022 than the year prior. While still 11% lower than the amount spent in 2019, that growth signals a trajectory forward for domestic business travel.
International travel also continues to grow with a 998% increase over the same quarter of 2021. Similarly, spend on international air travel is up 2,147% over Q4 2021, but it is 18% lower than the same quarter in 2019. The significant rise in corporate spend on air travel implies that the international airline industry has fully bounced back from pandemic-era stagnation.
In Q4 2022, car rentals for business trips increased by 73% over Q4 2021 but were still 48% lower than the same quarter in 2019. Car rental durations were also longer than the previous year: Travelers averaged 5.38 days with a business car rental in Q4 2022, compared to 3.54 days in 2021. Even with the holidays looming, car travel for business was on par with last quarter. Workers took only 7% more trips and averaged 5.64 days with their car rental in Q3 2022.
Spend on car rentals for business trips was up 110% over Q4 2021, but the average rental was $47 per day, down 20% over the same quarter last year.
As the hotel industry continues to rebound from pandemic losses, in Q4 2022, business travelers averaged 4.13 nights per hotel stay. This reflects a 55% increase in trip length over the same quarter in 2021. Compared to Q4 2019, however, it shows an 8% decrease in trip length. The number of hotel reservations is up 89% over Q4 2021 but still 45% lower than in 2019.
The average nightly spend on hotels for business trips was up $138, compared to $184 in Q4 2021. Reservations overall cost 16% more than the previous year, but were down 13% from the previous quarter, Q3 2022.
As the final months of the year approached, airline officials anticipated a profitable quarter fueled by business travelers. United Airlines cited hybrid work as a driver of future demand in the company’s Q3 earnings call. Similarly, Delta shared a statement in October naming business travel as an anticipated driver of profitability. According to our data, booking volume and spend grew across all modes of travel (domestic flights, international flights, car rentals, and hotel reservations) in Q4 2022 over the same quarter the previous year. Flight booking volume and spend also grew over the previous quarter (Q3 2022), but spend on car and hotel bookings saw minimal quarterly drops.
U.S.-based travel was memorable in the final quarter of 2022, since winter storms in November and December disrupted nationwide travel plans over the holidays. Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed, hitting Southwest Airlines’ business operations the hardest. While this primarily affected non-business travel, the fact that air travel saw growth both quarterly and annually despite the disruptions shows just how accurate predictions of profitability came to be.
We will continue to monitor these figures and report how they evolve quarterly. An infographic for this quarter's SpendSmart Travel Trends report can be downloaded here.
The data in the Emburse Business Travel Index represents over 140,000 individual transactions made by travel management companies using Emburse’s expense management platform for business travel expenses. It reflects the months of October, November, and December collectively (Q4) for the years 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.