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Business travellers spent $23.5-billion in Canada in 2013, helping generate about 1.5 per cent of the country’s GDP, according to a study released Wednesday by the GBTA Foundation, the research arm of the Global Business Travel Association.

THINKSTOCK

The money spent by people travelling for work is a crucial contributor to the Canadian economy, even though most travellers don't go very far or stay over night.

Business travellers spent $23.5-billion in Canada in 2013, helping generate about 1.5 per cent of the country's GDP, according to a study released Wednesday by the GBTA Foundation, the research arm of the Global Business Travel Association.

The report said travellers spent an average of $656 per trip, on lodging, airfare, rental cars, food, drink and entertainment. Multiply that by 33.3 million domestic business trips, plus another 2.6 million trips into Canada by international business travellers, and you get a key driver for the economy – in particular for the many suppliers in and beyond the hospitality industry.

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Surprisingly, though, 70 per cent of business trips are to destinations within 160 kilometres of travellers' homes, and three-quarters are day trips that do not involve an overnight stay. Only four per cent of trips are to destinations more than 800 km away. As a result, most trips – 80 per cent – are made by car, with only 7 per cent by air.

"There is a tremendous amount of activity when it comes to day trips," said Joe Bates, vice-president of research at the GBTA Foundation. "There is a very fundamental aspect of business travel in Canada that is tied to day-to-day business operations and isn't long-distance travel ... It is a huge piece of the market."

Travel industry suppliers – many of whom are focused on overnight stays – could do a better job catering to those day travellers, Mr. Bates said, perhaps by providing more comfortable places for people to meet their customers outside of the office environment.

According to the study, business travel has a multiplier effect on the economy because of the deep supply chain. The total GDP the sector contributes is about $27.3-billion, the GBTA report said, or $1.16 in GDP for each dollar of business travel activity.

About 434,000 jobs depended on business travel in 2013, the study said. Approximately 60 per cent of those were at airlines, hotels, car rental companies and others who directly supply travel services. The balance were in firms that supply goods and services to those primary providers – audio-visual companies, meeting planners, caterers and the like.

All the numbers in the study are based on 2013 statistics, but the GBTA said it expects overall spending will show growth of 2.5 per cent in 2014 and 5.3 per cent in 2015.

Ontario and Quebec are the prime beneficiaries of business travel, absorbing more than 60 per cent – mostly in Montreal and Toronto. Alberta gets about 14 per cent of business trips, while B.C. gets 8 per cent, and the remaining provinces share the rest.

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All levels of government also benefit, Mr. Bates said, since about $8-billion of federal, provincial and local taxes were generated by business travel in 2013 – about one-third of the total spending.

Of all business travellers, 70 per cent are men, 57 per cent are married, and the average household income is $102,329, the report says. Most are between 35 and 55 years old, and most are in management positions.

Of those who come to Canada from outside, by far the most – almost 80 per cent – travel here from the United States.

Mr. Bates said video conferencing has not made a significant dent in business travel, as it was once was expected to do. Video conferencing is used widely for internal communications, he said, but it is not displacing trips to see customers. "The vast majority of business travellers agree that there is no replacement for face-to-face meetings."

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