Business Travel Demand Is on a Steady Rise But Government Policies Continue to Hamper Return to International Travel

Latest GBTA poll shows non-essential business travel gaining but critical functions for business continue to be impacted by global travel restrictions

Alexandria, VA  – More companies are reporting a willingness and actual return to business travel, with domestic travel taking the lead. However, government restrictions on international travel continue to hinder the ability for companies to conduct key business functions. This according to the latest poll from The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) – the world’s largest business travel association and worldwide leader in education, research, networking and advocacy for the industry. This poll 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.

This 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 on month.  And three in four (77%) GBTA members and stakeholders feel their employees are ‘willing’ or ‘very willing’ to travel for business in the current environment.

However, half (52%) of GBTA 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. And 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,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO GBTA.

Indicators show strong demand for business travel’s return

  • OPTIMISM STEADY. GBTA poll respondents continue to be optimistic about the industry’s path to recovery. Half (54%) report they feel more optimistic compared to a month ago whereas two in five (40%) say they feel the same. Only six percent say they feel more pessimistic about the industry’s path to recovery.
  • WILLINGNESS TO TRAVEL. Three in four (77%) GBTA members and stakeholders 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%).
  • DOMESTIC DOMINATES. 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.
  • GETTING BACK OUT THERE. 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 ten plan to resume international travel within 1-3 months and half are considering resuming international travel soon but have no definite plans. One in ten do not plan to resume international business travel in the near future.

Restrictions continue to hinder international travel and hence business functions

Government policies and restrictions relating to international business travel continues to impact GBTA member companies and their ability to carry out important business functions. Over half (52%) of GBTA member and stakeholders report that networking, 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.

All respondents Europe

(minus UK)

UK- only North America
Networking 52% 73% 67% 47%
Conduct sales meetings 48% 58% 67% 46%
Train or develop employee 28% 41% 41% 25%

 

Business travel spending, bookings and the bottom line

  • Seven in ten (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 ten (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 ten (70%) suppliers report their bookings from corporate customers have increased from the previous week, whereas one in four (27%) report their bookings have remained the same from the previous week. Less than one in ten (3%) report their bookings have decreased.

 

Changing priorities for travel programs as safety remains paramount

  • Over half (57%) of GBTA respondents are usually or sometimes allowed to conduct non-essential domestic business travel. Two in ten are rarely allowed (20%) or not allowed (23%).
  • Non-essential international business travel continues to lag, with one in four (26%) GBTA members and stakeholders 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 ten of sales/ account management trips are usually or sometimes allowed, similarly seven in ten service trips are usually or sometimes allowed. Over half of non-essential trips are for sales, account management and service trips.
  • Seven in ten (69%) of GBTA respondents believe that risk management and duty of care are more important than before the pandemic.

 

Thinking about your travel program, how important are the following priorities currently? More important than before the pandemic Equally important as before the pandemic Less important than before the pandemic
Cost savings 22% 67% 11%
Sustainability / corporate social responsibility 39% 57% 3%
Risk management / duty of care 69% 31% 1%
Program compliance (e.g., online booking tool adoption) 34% 59% 7%
Traveler satisfaction 27% 72% 1%
  • Less than two in ten 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 re-opened but working in the office is optional. One in five (19%) say their company’s office(s) have re-opened and most/all employees are required to work from the office at least one day per week. Just 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 re-opened and most or all employees currently can choose to work from the office or work from home.
  • Half (52%) of GBTA members and stakeholders expect most employees will work from the office some days and work from home other days when offices fully re-open. 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.
  • You can view more details and key highlights from GBTA’s July 2021 poll here.

Methodology:

GBTA conducted a poll of its members across the globe from July 6-13, 2021. A total of 618 responses were received.

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