GBTA: Business travel demand is on a steady rise

More companies are reporting a willingness and actual return to business travel, with domestic travel taking the lead, according to the latest poll from The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). However, government restrictions on international travel continue to hinder the ability for companies to conduct key business functions.

The poll, conducted from July 6-13, is the 21st in a series tracking the pulse of GBTA’s membership of global travel buyers and suppliers and how the travel industry overall is managing the return to business travel post pandemic. A total of 618 responses were received.

The latest poll shows a 12% increase compared to last month in companies opening travel and fewer companies suspending or cancelling all travel. Domestic business travel is now widely allowed and corporate bookings and travel spend continues to rise month-over-month. And 77% of GBTA members and stakeholders feel their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment.

However, 52% of respondents report that government policies and restrictions relating to international business travel continue to impact their companies’ ability to conduct important business functions such as networking, business prospecting, planning and sales meetings.

“There is clearly an appetite to resume non-essential business travel and in-person meetings to promote collaboration, networking and business opportunities,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA. “Interestingly, it doesn’t appear that cost savings are necessarily a key driver in waiting to get travelers back out on the road. However, government policies and restrictions on international travel continue to hinder progress in pursuing activities so important to conducting business”

Indicators show strong demand for business travel’s return

  • GBTA poll respondents continue to be optimistic about the industry’s path to recovery, as 54% report they feel more optimistic compared to a month ago, whereas 40% say they feel the same. Only 6% say they feel more pessimistic about the industry’s path to recovery.
  • More than three in four (77%) feel their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment. The remaining members feel their employees are not willing (4%), are neutral (12%) or are unsure (7%) of their willingness to travel for business. And desire to serve their customers is a key driver, with greater willingness to travel for sales and account management (59%) and service trips (56%).
  • Corporate positions concerning business travel vary, and GBTA respondents report that 57% of non-essential domestic business trips are usually or sometimes allowed, compared to 26% for non-essential international business trips.
  • Of the companies that suspended most domestic business trips, nine in 10 plan to resume domestic travel in the near future or are considering resuming domestic travel but have no definite plans. Three in 10 plan to resume international travel within 1-3 months and half are considering resuming international travel soon but have no definite plans. One in 10 do not plan to resume international business travel in the near future.

Restrictions continue to hinder international travel, business functions

  • Government policies and restrictions relating to international business travel continue to impact GBTA member companies and their ability to carry out important business functions, as they report that networking (52%), business prospecting (51%) and business planning and strategizing (50%) are impacted by these policies.
  • Respondents based in Europe were more likely to cite the impact of government policies and restrictions on key business functions compared to those based in North America. And it was significantly higher regarding the ability to network, conduct sales meetings and train or develop employees.

Business travel spending, bookings and the bottom line

  • More than seven in 10 (72%) of those surveyed report their company’s business travel spending increased “somewhat” to “a lot” in June 2021 compared to the prior month, whereas one in five (20%) report spending remained “the same.” Less than one in 10 (6%) report travel spend decreased or are unsure (1%).
  • Among those respondents who note their June 2021 travel spend increased from May, the average increase was 41.8%.
  • Seven in 10 (70%) suppliers report their bookings from corporate customers have increased from the previous week, whereas 27% report their bookings have remained the same from the previous week and 3% report their bookings have decreased.

Changing priorities for travel programs as safety remains paramount

  • More than half (57%) of GBTA respondents are usually or sometimes allowed to conduct non-essential domestic business travel, while 20% and 23% are not allowed.
  • Non-essential international business travel continues to lag, with 26% usually allowed or sometimes allowed to conduct non-essential international business travel.
  • Non-essential domestic business travel that can help generate revenue for the company are the key reasons for company travel requests. Seven in 10 of sales/account management trips are usually or sometimes allowed, similarly seven in 10 service trips are usually or sometimes allowed. More than half of non-essential trips are for sales, account management and service trips.
  • Nearly seven in 10 (69%) respondents believe that risk management and duty of care are more important than before the pandemic.
  • Less than two in 10 of respondents indicated their employees will need to be vaccinated before travelling for business (18%) or meet with clients and customers face-to-face (16%), compared to more than half who will not. A quarter of respondents do not know their company’s vaccination policies and whether they will be required to be vaccinated for business travel or to meet with clients and customers face-to-face.

Flexible working continues as employees return to office

  • Almost half (45%) of respondents report their company’s office(s) have reopened but working in the office is optional. Nearly one in five (19%) say their company’s office(s) have reopened and most/all employees are required to work from the office at least one day per week. Just over one-quarter (27%) report their office has not reopened and most (if not all) employees work from home.
  • Respondents based in Europe (53%) are more likely than those in North America (42%) to report their company’s office(s) have reopened and most or all employees currently can choose to work from the office or work from home.
  • More than half (52%) expect most employees will work from the office some days and work from home other days when offices fully reopen. Fewer expect most employees will return to the office full-time on most days (18%), employees will make the decision themselves (13%) or most employees will work from home most days (9%). Fewer respondents report they expect employees will have other working arrangements (6%) or are unsure (3%).
  • Respondents based in Europe (64%) are more likely than those based in North America (49%) to expect most employees will work from the office some days and work from home other days.

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