The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has released the findings from its 20th COVID-19 poll assessing how its members are managing the return to business travel, post-pandemic.
The first poll of the summer, which was conducted from June 7-11 and featured responses from 640 members, revealed a continuation of the positive momentum reported last month, as companies implement or finalize plans to resume domestic business travel. Two-fifths (40%) of respondents say their company’s plan to resume non-essential domestic business travel has “already happened” in the country where they are based—compared with last month’s 34% allowing “some” domestic travel. An additional one-third (33%) say their company has finalized a date (8%) or is working to finalize a date (25%) to resume domestic business travel. Nearly one-quarter are “waiting to see what happens” (18%) or are “not sure” (6%).
While domestic business travel nears a return, the outlook for international business travel remains murky. More than three in five respondents (62%) say their company is waiting to see what happens or is not sure about resuming non-essential international business travel from the country where they are based. And in Canada, both domestic and international business travel plans have taken restart delays.
“After a spring marked by growing optimism in most regions, many companies are now making plans to resume business travel—especially in the U.S. and Europe,” said GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang. “While there is still caution around cross-border travel, almost three-quarters of our poll respondents say their company has resumed non-essential domestic business trips, or is working to finalize a date to resume these trips. Optimism has given way to action, and the gradual support of corporate policies to resume business travel has actually begun. While this is an important breakthrough, our research says it will take some time for companies to allow as many trips—or even the same kind of travel—as they did before the pandemic.”
Companies plan to resume business travel
- More than three-quarters (77%) of GBTA buyer and procurement members feel their employees are “somewhat willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment. This is 12 percentage points higher than in the last poll (May 2021).
- When asked how their company travel spend changed in May 2021 compared to the prior month, 60% report their company’s spending increased “somewhat” to “a lot,” whereas one in four report spending remained ‘the same.’ Only 15% report travel spend decreased, (13%) are unsure (2%). Respondents based in the U.S. (68%) are more likely than those based in Europe (54%) to say their company’s travel spend has increased from the previous month.
- Two in five respondents (40%) say their company’s plan to resume non-essential domestic business travel has “already happened.” An additional one-third say their company has decided on a date to resume domestic business travel (8%) or is working to finalize a date but has not decided or announced one yet (25%). Only 18%% say their company is waiting to see what happens.
- Just over one in 10 respondents (12%) say their company’s plan to resume international business travel has “already happened.” About one in four say their company has decided on or announced a date to resume international travel (5%) or is working to finalize a date (21%). However, most say their company is “waiting to see what happens” (39%) or are not sure (23%).
- More than half expect the number of these trips will return to the pre-pandemic level within a year. However, expectations regarding other types of trips—such as internal collaboration and education/professional development trips—will take longer to recover. Nearly one-fifth (19%) expect the number of internal collaboration trips will never recover to the pre-pandemic level.
- More than half of travel suppliers and travel management company personnel report they are “very optimistic” (13%) or “optimistic’” (41%) about the financial prospects of companies in the business travel sector. This is up seven percentage points from last month’s poll.
Momentum grows for a return to office
- More than two in five GBTA members and contacts (43%) say their company’s office reopening plan has already happened in the country where they are based. Almost half say their company has decided on or announced a date (24%) to reopen the office or are working to finalize a date (21%). Less than one in 10 say their company is waiting to see what happens (8%) or are not sure (4%).
- Nearly eight in 10 (79%) expect employees at their company will have more flexibility to work from home in the future than they had prior to the pandemic. Almost one in five (17%) expect employees will have the same flexibility to work from home as they did before the pandemic. Only 5%expect employees will have less flexibility to work from home post pandemic.
- Among respondents who expect their company will allow more flexibility to work from home, nearly two-thirds (65%) expect the change will not affect business travel. Almost one-third (30%) expect increased flexibility will lead to less business travel, while 5% expect it will lead to more business.