ALEXANDRIA, VA—The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has released the results from its 15th coronavirus poll, the first in 2021, to measure the impact on business travel following the onset of the pandemic last year.
The latest survey, conducted from Jan. 11-18 with a total of 733 responses received, finds that more than half of respondents expect most of their employees will return to the office by Q3, in line with a return to non-essential business travel and a growth in traveler confidence.
“While we continue to face challenges for our industry, there is light at the end of the tunnel and projections for a return to some normality remain positive for Q3,” said Dave Hilfman, interim executive director of GBTA. “The global roll-out of vaccination programs continues to be a key driver in restoring traveler confidence, but uncertainty remains around traveler requirements for a return to business travel, whether this be pre-testing, testing on arrival or proof of vaccine. GBTA will continue to lobby on behalf of members for clarity and a consistent approach among governments.”
- More than half (54%) of GBTA poll respondents expect most of their employees will return to the office by August (Q3). Just 8% report most of their employees have already returned to the office, 17% expect their employees to return to the office in the next 1-4 months and an additional one-third (29%) expect employees to return to the office in 5-8 months.
- 10% expect their employees to return in nine months or longer. One-quarter (26%) report they have not decided and an additional one in 10 (11%) respondents are unsure.
- Plans to resume non-critical business travel follow a similar trajectory as returning to the office, as 6% of respondents report their company has resumed non-business critical business travel. One in 10 (13%) GBTA members report they expect employees to resume non-critical business travel in the next 1-4 months and one in three (29%) expect this travel category to resume in 5-8 months. An additional one in five expect non-critical business travel to resume within nine months or more (20%) or have not made a decision (20%). An additional one in 10 (11%) are unsure.
- There is still a large amount of uncertainty around what will be (or is currently) required for employees to return to business travel among GBTA members.
- The use of mobile apps to verify the health status of passengers is more commonly accepted. Buyers and procurement professionals were asked to rate their comfort with travel suppliers—such as airlines or hotels—using mobile apps to verify the health status of passengers. Four in 10 say they are “comfortable” (32%) or “very comfortable” (12%). One in five are “not comfortable” (11%) or “not at all comfortable’” (10%) with using mobile apps to verify the health status passengers or guests. An additional one in five (19%) are “neither comfortable nor uncomfortable” or are “unsure” (16%).
- The vaccine continues to be at the forefront of the recovery plan. When asked to assess comfort with allowing employees to travel for business if certain travel industry workers—such as flight attendants, pilots and hotel employees—are classified as essential workers (which could allow them to receive their vaccination before the general population), a majority say it would. Two-thirds (64%) of GBTA member company respondents report vaccinating certain travel industry workers would make them “somewhat” or “a great deal” more comfortable. One in four (27%) say it would make them “a little bit” or “not at all” comfortable and one in 10 (9%) are unsure.