Amidst a gloomy economic outlook, business travel is expected to slow down for 2012.

Corporate travel budgets are increasing, but mostly to cover the rising costs of airfare and hotels in a tough negotiating climate as airlines and hotels restrict volume discounts and other perks. 

Despite these challenges, businesses recognize that the benefits of in-person meetings far outweigh the cost savings of scrapping travel programs - and some bright spots remain for road warriors in 2012:

Corporate travel departments will get more organized. With tight budgets under more scrutiny, look for corporate travel managers to streamline policies and procedures, making it easier for travelers to use the proper channels, from booking to reimbursement.

More flight options. Even with U.S. airlines’ planned capacity cuts, you’re more likely to get a seat on the domestic flight you want if fewer people are traveling - especially helpful for business travelers who often need to take an earlier or later flight home if their meeting schedule changes on the day of travel.

International travel still comfortable. According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), U.S. companies are still spending on foreign travel to growing markets such as Asia - and they’re still allowing premium class upgrades and amenities on these trips since happy employees are more effective. Expect about 3% more trips overseas next year, with international travel topping $34 billion.

While corporations will likely restrict the number of business trips next year, employees will be traveling smarter - and each trip will be that much more important to the company’s strategic growth.