Optimism within the industry suggests business travel is on the rise

The latest Global Business Travel Association poll shows that business travel is experiencing a rebound. In the survey, 40% of respondents said their work has already restarted on non-essential business travel. The poll also found that 74% of respondents felt that employees are either “very willing” or “willing” to travel for business.
The poll also found optimism from within the industry. Fifty percent of travel management companies and suppliers are either “optimistic” or “very optimistic” about the industry’s financial outlook. It looks like business travel trends in 2021 are on the up.

Domestic rebound is stronger, international still 'up in the air'

While there is a strong rebound in domestic business travel, the rebound for international travel is much slower. The GBTA CEO, Suzanne Neufang, explains that some of this comes down to government policies, which still include travel restrictions. Even with the domestic business travel rebound underway, many challenges remain. The patchwork restrictions that vary by state are a significant obstacle. Others also note that the “outdated attendance limitations” in many areas are another challenge. The USTA hopes to overcome this challenge by encouraging clear and consistent federal guidelines.

How many businesses already have business travel?

The president of the US Travel Association also has data supporting the rebound of business travel. He says that about 35% of businesses in the United States have business travel.

What to expect in years to come

The rebound has already started, but it will not be instant. Experts say that we will need at least several years before business travel returns to its pre-pandemic levels – that’s not to say we won’t see a surge in business travel in 2021. This estimate comes from a projection from Tourism Economics. That prediction says we should not expect to return to 2019 levels until 2024. This prediction is both for the number of trips and travel expenditures. Tourism Economics also shared figures to put the drop in business travel into perspective. The domestic business travel expenditure in 2019 and 2020 was $270 billion and $88 billion, respectively. This is a drop of 67%.

Business travel and the economy

Business travel is a crucial component of the US economy. The analysis from Tourism Economics shows that in 2019 alone, business travel contributed $791 billion to the US economy. It was also responsible for offering five million jobs. As such, there have been several initiatives to help encourage a rebound. These include the US/UK task force for restarting business travel and the USTA “Let’s Meet There” campaign.

Let’s Meet There
The “Let’s Meet There” campaign highlights the differences between large gatherings and professionally managed events and meetings. The USTA also worked with Ohio State University to release a whitepaper outlining scientific safety measures to keep business meetings safe. These include physical distancing, surface cleaning, meal distribution, ventilation, and mask-wearing. The guidelines are also realistic, only suggesting masks for unvaccinated attendees. However, the lack of restrictions in certain states could challenge enforcing these guidelines.

US/UK Task Force
The joint task force will feature experts who will create recommendations to allow people to restart international travel. The US also plans to work with the European Union and Canada to develop a plan for the return of international travel.
Experts hope that the creation of this task force will lead to the two countries’ experts quickly creating travel guidelines and best practices. That will hopefully include consistent testing regiments and quarantine restrictions. Some experts hoped for a bilateral travel corridor by early July.

According to Roger Dow, the US Travel President and CEO, opening this type of travel corridor would help both countries recover economically. He pointed to the layered health measures that prove travel can be safe. With those measures in place, he feels that the US economy (and the UK economy) will see the benefits.