Business travel takes off in Q1

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A quick perusal of the leisure travel industry shows nearly unmitigated disaster: gas prices rising daily; airlines merging businesses and cutting services; and worried hotel chains offering deeper, more frequent rate deals to boost slumping traffic.

So it stands to reason that the business travel sector—travel for sales appointments, meetings, exhibitions and conventions—must be in disarray, too, right?

Not according to the March business-to-business advertising page results from IMS-The Auditor, which finds some of business travel's biggest titles had one of the strongest first quarters in recent memory. Even with oil at $110 a barrel, Nielsen Business Media's Meeting News ended the quarter up 61.07% in ad pages. Sibling titles Business Travel News (+50.36%) and Successful Meetings (+8.17%) also flew into positive territory.

It turns out that travel suppliers are working harder to reach corporate travel planning executives, those who organize and control the largest events.

Moreover, an industry survey, released in early March by payment systems supplier AirPlus International, forecast business travel growth this year and, so far, that seems to be on the mark. The study found that a majority of its U.S. respondents expected more employee business travel this year.

But positive results weren't the case for everyone. Overall, the IMS-The Auditor category (with five more issues published through March of this year) was up only 2.27% compared with first quarter 2007. And three books carrying more than 100 first-quarter ad pages were each down more than 7.5%.

But positive numbers are positive numbers, and this advertising growth signals that neither the Internet nor skyrocketing fuel prices will put business travel out of business anytime soon.

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