Economy Overtakes COVID-19 as Obstacle To Business Travel’s Recovery

While the leisure segment has been the first to really bounce back from the massive blow the travel industry suffered at the hands of COVID-19, business travel, it seems, is slowly climbing back also. Yet, this type of travel today faces new and different obstacles to complete recovery, mainly caused by global economic conditions, Business Travel News reported.

According to a new survey conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), in which the organization polled a group of 594 members—consisting of travel buyers and suppliers—the recovery of international business travel has hit the halfway mark, but now economic concerns have replaced COVID-19 as the segment’s main roadblock.

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Travel managers who participated in the survey, which GBTA conducted September 20 – 26, reported that domestic business travel has regained 63 percent of 2019 volumes, while international business travel has reached 50 percent of its 2019 levels.

Roughly one-quarter of the buyers polled said that international travel has reattained over 70 percent of pre-pandemic volumes. The majority of buyers reported that their companies again allow non-essential business travel, policies which 86 percent of respondents said now apply to domestic and 74 percent said apply to international trips.

“We continue to see progress as business travel makes its way back to being a $1.4 trillion global industry, pre-pandemic,” GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang, said in a statement. “It is also important to understand the context of global business travel’s recovery. Asia is still opening its borders, international business travel, in general, started picking up only earlier this year across the globe, and the U.S. has only permitted unrestricted travel since June.”

When it came to expressing their expectations for the coming year, just four percent of travel suppliers surveyed said they believe COVID-19 will be the most likely cause of reduced business travel bookings. By comparison, 80 percent of suppliers felt that the greatest threat to bookings is posed by travel budgets being frozen or reduced due to record-high inflation or an impending recession.

Nevertheless, both suppliers and buyers at this point believe that business travel will fare better in 2023 than it has in 2022. Almost 80 percent of travel managers indicated that their employees are set to take more business trips next year than did this, and roughly two-thirds thought that 2023 would see both internal and external travel increase year-over-year. Among suppliers, 80 percent expected that their corporate clients’ travel spending will rise next year, and 85 percent predicted that year-over-year bookings will increase in 2023.


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