NEW YORK, NY — On March 21, the 32nd annual Corporate Travel Index, gauging corporate travel rates in benchmark cities, both in the United States and internationally, has been released. Each year, the Corporate Travel Index serves as a valuable resource for corporate travel professionals in budget forecasting and travel to top destinations around the world.
Throughout the United States, steep hikes in hotel rates pushed the average U.S. per diem for hotel, rental car and dining costs up 3.9 percent in 2015, with no sign of slowing down. Across 100 U.S. cities, those three categories cost travel buyers $318.80 per day last year, up from $306.91 in 2014. Additionally, for the third year in a row, San Francisco was the most expensive city for U.S. travelers. Its average per diem rose 7.4 percent to $547.34, with New York and Boston also surpassing $500.
In the Americas, per diems dropped by double-digit percentages in 13 of the 19 non-U.S. cities represented in the Corporate Travel Index. These decreases have been largely attributed to the drop in oil prices in countries whose economies depend on it, as well as political unrest throughout the region. Conversely, per diems in El Salvador’s San Salvador and Costa Rica’s San Jose increased. Food costs have spiked in Venezuela, which is suffering from massive economic turmoil and a debilitating food shortage, pushing per diems in the capital city of Caracas to more than $1,700.
The U.S. dollar grew in value against currencies in Asia-Pacific over the past year, and is projected to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. Based on exchange rates in early March, $1 bought 6.5 Chinese yuan and 125 Japanese yen, which was the highest value in Japan in more than a decade. Currency experts agree that the U.S. dollar will continue to increase in value in both China and Japan, along with the rest of Asia and the Pacific, as it has also gained momentum against the Indian rupee and remained historically strong against the Australian dollar.
In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the U.S. dollar’s resurgence helped business travel per diems decline in 2015, despite healthy demand. For the 59 EMEA cities listed in the Corporate Travel Index, the average per diem declined from $362 in 2014 to $323 in 2015. Once again, London served as the most expensive city at about $554, down from $576, ahead of Muscat in Oman and the Swiss cities of Geneva and Zurich, where the per diems also declined. Further demand increases and new hotel supply deficiencies point to per diem increases in 2016, but economic and geopolitical instability in Europe casts uncertainty on this year’s currency exchange rates and business travel pricing.