Corporate TravelGBTA’s new survey shows that employees are ready to travel, and there’s optimism in the air as corporate travel bookings make a steady return.

Business travel is slowly but surely picking up speed

Companies are signalling a marked increase in bookings and eagerness for corporate travel in the span of one month.
Companies are signalling a marked increase in bookings and eagerness for corporate travel in the span of one month. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/Halfpoint

Guess who’s back? If you said business travellers, you’re absolutely right. With the Omicron variant slowly but surely subsiding, and more countries relaxing their travel restrictions or dropping them entirely, corporate travel is finally picking up steam and steadily chugging along.

Data and insights found in the Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) February Covid-19 recovery poll revealed a rise in business travel volume expectations for the year ahead, and more employees’ willingness to go on bleisure trips. Companies which responded to the GBTA poll also indicated that more employees will be returning to the office at least several days a week.

“We are entering into the next phase of global business travel – one of thoughtful recovery – and our recent research reflects that shift,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA. “The business travel industry is more optimistic about the path to recovery. The signs are there. With safety and health remaining at the forefront, we are moving into a more endemic way of managing the pandemic, step by step.”

Neufang says that the ‘next normal’ in global business travel encompassing all its players is still being defined. As more insights, expectations and trends are expected to follow suit in light of the ever-evolving situation around business travel that has already seen a significant paradigm shift from the way travel management companies (TMC) have pivoted or enhanced their services, GBTA sheds light on the current circumstances taking shape now.

Optimism skyrockets within a month: Around 78% of supplier and TMC professionals surveyed in February are optimistic about the business travel industry’s path to recovery, a significant increase compared to the 54% in its January poll.

Employees want to travel for business: 82% of companies believe that their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in today’s climate. Most of those surveyed indicate that their employees may want to travel about the same amount or even more as they did before the pandemic.

Bookings are improving: Travel buyers respond that their companies’ business travel bookings are at 33% of their pre-pandemic level, while travel suppliers indicate that their business travel bookings are back to 42% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

How about future bookings?: Future bookings are seeing a larger uptick than current bookings. In January, 60% of TMC professionals reveal that bookings for the upcoming months have decreased, but in February, 45% have noticed a marked increase for future bookings.

Bleisure is picking up speed: 82% of travel managers think that their employees are equally interested or much more interested with the concept of extending work trips to include a leisure component.

Travel restrictions, yay or nay: One-third of respondents feel that their country’s entry requirements for international visitors are too strict, while 79% of travel managers and procurement professionals say that these government-imposed travel restrictions have somewhat or greatly disrupted their business operations.

Omicron sentiments: When professionals were asked about the possibility of the Omicron variant impacting corporate travel in the next three months, majority (79%) thinks that the worst is behind us, but they remain divided on the speed of its recovery. Out of the respondents surveyed, 50% believe that business travel will pick up slowly, while 29% think it will pick up quickly.

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