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August 16, 2022

Global Business Travel is Coming Back but Headwinds Push Full Recovery Into 2026

The global business travel industry continues its progress towards full recovery to 2019 pre-pandemic spending levels of USD $1.4 trillion, but recovery has hit some headwinds. Just as many COVID-related recovery conditions have improved, many macroeconomic conditions deteriorated rapidly in early 2022. These new developments are impacting the timing, trajectory, and pace of business travel’s recovery, both globally and by region, pushing the forecast for full recovery into 2026 instead of 2024 as previously forecasted.

This is a central finding from the latest 2022 GBTA Business Travel Index Outlook – Annual Global Report and Forecast published by GBTA and made possible by Mastercard. Unveiled yesterday on the Main Stage at the 2022 GBTA Convention in San Diego, the GBTA BTI is an annual exhaustive study of business travel spending and growth covering 73 countries and 44 industries.

“To understand the headwinds that have been impacting a more accelerated recovery for global business travel, all you have to do is look at the news headlines since the beginning of 2022. The forecasted result is we’ll get close, but we won’t reach and exceed 2019’s pre-pandemic levels until 2026,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA.

The 2022 BTI also reveals insights from GBTA’s recent surveys of global finance executives and business travelers. Additionally, it explores new and transformative factors in global business travel in the areas of sustainability, workforce dynamics (including remote work and blended travel or “bleisure”), and technology adoption.

Highlights from the latest BTI Outlook (in US dollars):

  • Total spending on global business travel reached $697 billion in 2021, 5.5% above the pandemic-era low of 2020.
  • Recovery was short-circuited by the Omicron variant and spike in global COVID cases in late 2021 and early 2022.
  • Recovery in 2022 was dependent upon and has been largely driven by improvement in the four factors of global business travel recovery – the global vaccination effort, national travel policies, business traveler sentiment, and travel management policy.
  • Deteriorating economic conditions and shifting secular trends in 2022, however, have slowed global recovery. Hence, global business travel will almost reach pre-pandemic levels in 2025, reaching $1.39 trillion.
  • Global spending is not expected to make it fully back to the $1.4 trillion dollar mark until mid-2026, when it is forecast to reach $1.47 trillion dollars. This adds an estimated 18 months to the industry’s recovery than was forecast in the previous GBTA Business Travel Index released in November 2021.

GBTA members can access the full BTI Report on the GBTA Hub. Read the full press release here.

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