A man talks on a phone at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
A man talks on a phone at John F. Kennedy International Airport. - 
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When the Great Recession hit, business travel was one of the first things to go as companies looked for ways to cut back. But a new report from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) shows employees are taking to the rails, roads, and skies again, as confidence in the economy continues to grow.

The group says American companies are booking more business trips than they were this time last year by 2.8 percent, and their employees are spending 7.6 percent more money on the road. The GBTA expects both numbers to keep going up as the economy rallies.

That pleases Harvard Business School Professor Tsedal Neeley, who studies global collaboration and co-authored a 2009 report on the potential negative consequences for business relationships when companies skimp on travel.

"I think we’re going to have healthier, more functional teams, more effective work," Neeley explains. "You can have similar effects without the face-to-face contact but it takes much longer."

So where does that leave video calls and other high tech tools for connecting remotely?  

"I think a lot of companies got their toes wet with teleconferencing thinking it would eliminate travel, and really what it’s turned out to be is an extra tool for businesses to compete," says Kevin Mitchell, Executive Director of the Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy group.

The report’s most encouraging finding, Mitchell believes, is that companies are spending 7.1 percent more on conventions and other group travel  – an investment that pays off longer term.