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Companies may have tightened budgets during the recession, but a new American Express report shows that strategic travel spending has increased in the past year. Researchers with American Express Business Insights reviewed spending patterns among tens of thousands of merchants in their credit card processing network during the fourth quarter of 2010.

The AmEx study revealed that corporate spending on travel and entertainment continued to grow through the end of 2010, but that purchasing managers have forced buyers to favor value over convenience.

For example, during a period when consumer airfare purchases dipped by as much as 2 percent, business airfare spending among small businesses grew by 7 percent. Large businesses grew their air travel budgets by 6 percent, but orders for business class tickets lagged pre-recession levels. Likewise, business entertainment expenses grew, but with the quick service restaurant category showing some of the biggest gains.

The Q4 Spend Sights Report also found a few bright spots for luxury travel. Business travelers visiting San Francisco and Miami found deals on high-end hotels in both of those cities. American Express payment data shows that those hotel guests selected luxury-class hotels for about one out of three room nights.