For years Americans have led the world in business travel spending. That is about to change.

With China’s economy surging, business travel spending from the world’s most populous country is expected to jump 14 percent in 2013 and 17 percent next year, according to the Global Business Travel Assn., the trade group for corporate travel managers.

China is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest business travel market by 2016, the trade group says.

About 95 percent of that business travel traffic will stay in Asia, with trips to South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong the top destinations. The GBTA estimates that the U.S. will be No. 8 on the list of destinations for Chinese business travelers.

And with the growth in travel from China, Beijing Capital International Airport is expected next year to surpass Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as the world’s busiest airport.

“As China’s economy continues to grow, so does their expected demand for business travel,” said Tad Fordyce, head of global solutions for Visa Inc.

The demand for air travel from China is expected to grow so fast in the next few years that several of China’s airports have had to double or triple their capacity and the nation plans to build about 100 new airports over the next decade, said Joe Bates, vice president of research at GBTA.

“The real question is can they keep up with the demand,” he said.

Numbers from GBTA:

  • Despite weaker than expected business travel growth in H1 of 2013, China should surpass the U.S. as the world’s most dominant business travel market as early as 2016.
  • China’s total business travel spending is forecast to increase by 14.3% in 2013 to $224 billion (RMB1,371 billion). The projected expansion of 17.2% in 2014 is more than twice the rate of the U.S.
  • Domestic business travel continues to outperform international outbound (IOB). In 2013, domestic travel spend should grow 14.3%, followed by another 17.2% in 2014.
  • Growth in IOB has been revised slightly downward in 2013, with forecast growth of 12.8%, followed by a stronger than previously expected 16.5% in 2014.
  • Beijing Capital International airport is set to surpass longstanding incumbent, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, as the world’s busiest airport.

Photo Credit: Beijing Capital International Airport is expected next year to surpass Atlanta as the world's busiest airport. Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn) / Flickr