European business travel spend is set to grow by 4.3% in 2019 following a year of geopolitical and economic uncertainty.

The forecast by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is a rise on the 3.8% spent in 2018.

There was also a 3.6% annual increase in the number of people travelling for work.

The latest business travel barometer shows that 71% of businesses now measure traveller satisfaction compared to only 56% in the previous year.

As a result, two-thirds (66%) of companies now use traveller satisfaction as a tool to improve employee engagement.

This is reflected in a shift away from strict travel policies – a decline of 16% between 2016 and 2018 – in favour of greater flexibility.

The research also revealed movement in managed travel priorities.

Traveller security was the top of the list for the last three years. However, cost control takes precedence this year, followed by data security, then traveller security and traveller satisfaction.

GBT senior vice president and managing director, international, Elyes Mrad, said: “The findings of the study are positive. After a year of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, businesses are still focused on investing in travel to foster relationships and facilitate growth.

“The challenge businesses face is balancing cost efficiency and effectiveness, enabling travel to support their objectives, but at the same time, meeting the needs and expectations of employees.

“We expect to see a growing demand for flexible, smarter travel policies, tools and services that respond quickly to traveller feedback.”