According to the latest Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) survey, more and more companies are reporting a willingness and a real return to business travel, with domestic travel leading the way. However, government restrictions on international travel continue to hamper the ability of companies to perform key business functions.
The survey, conducted July 6-13, is the 21st in a series that tracks the pulse of GBTA members among global travel buyers and suppliers and how the travel industry as a whole is handling the return to travel to business after the pandemic. A total of 618 responses were received.
The latest poll shows a 12% increase from last month in the number of companies opening travel and fewer companies suspending or canceling all travel. Domestic business travel is now widely permitted, and corporate travel bookings and spending continue to increase month over month. And 77% of GBTA members and stakeholders believe their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in today’s environment.
However, 52% of respondents say that government policies and restrictions on international business travel continue to impact their companies’ ability to perform important business functions such as networking, business development, planning. and sales meetings.
“There is clearly a willingness to resume non-essential business travel and in-person meetings to promote collaboration, networking and business opportunities,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO of GBTA. “Interestingly, it doesn’t seem like cost savings are necessarily a key factor as we wait to get travelers back on the road. However, government policies and restrictions on international travel continue to hamper progress in pursuing activities so important to doing business. “
Indicators show strong demand for return of business travel
- Respondents to the GBTA survey continue to be optimistic about the path of the industry’s recovery, as 54% say they feel more optimistic compared to a month ago, while 40% say they feel the same. Only 6% say they are more pessimistic about the industry’s recovery path.
- More than three in four (77%) believe their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in today’s environment. Other members feel that their employees are unwilling (4%), neutral (12%), or unsure (7%) of their willingness to travel on business. And the desire to serve their customers is a key factor, with a greater willingness to travel for sales and account management (59%) and service travel (56%).
- Business positions on business travel vary, and GBTA respondents report that 57% of non-essential domestic business travel is usually or sometimes permitted, compared to 26% for non-essential international business travel.
- Of the companies that have suspended most domestic business travel, nine in 10 plan to resume domestic travel in the near future or are considering resuming domestic travel but do not have specific plans. Three in 10 plan to resume international travel within 1-3 months and half plan to resume international travel soon but have no specific plans. One in ten people do not plan to resume international business travel in the near future.
Restrictions continue to hamper international travel, business functions
- Government policies and restrictions on international business travel continue to impact GBTA member companies and their ability to perform important business functions, as they report that networking (52%), business prospecting ( 51%) and the planning and development of business strategies (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 when it came to the ability to network, organize sales meetings, and train or develop employees.
Business travel expenses, reservations and net income
- More than seven in 10 (72%) of those surveyed say their company‘s business travel spending increased “a little” to “a lot” in June 2021 compared to the previous month, while one in five ( 20%) say that the expenses have remained “the same. “Less than one in 10 (6%) say their travel expenses have decreased or are unsure (1%).
- Among respondents who note that their travel spending in June 2021 increased from May, the average increase was 41.8%.
- Seven in 10 suppliers (70%) say their bookings with corporate customers have increased from the previous week, while 27% say their bookings have stayed the same as the previous week and 3% say their bookings decreased.
Change priorities for travel programs as safety remains paramount
- More than half (57%) of GBTA respondents are usually or sometimes allowed to take non-essential domestic business travel, while 20% and 23% are not allowed.
- Non-essential international business travel continues to lag behind, with 26% generally or sometimes permitted to take non-essential international business travel.
- Non-essential domestic business travel that can help generate income for the business is the main reason for corporate travel requests. Seven in 10 sales / account management trips are generally or sometimes permitted, as well as seven in 10 service trips are generally or sometimes permitted. More than half of non-essential trips are for sales, account management and service trips.
- Almost seven in ten respondents (69%) think risk management and due diligence are more important than before the pandemic.
- Fewer than two in ten respondents indicated that their employees will need to be vaccinated before traveling on business (18%) or meeting clients and clients in person (16%), compared with more than half who will not. A quarter of those surveyed are unaware of their company’s vaccination policies and whether they will need to be vaccinated for business travel or to meet clients and customers face to face.
Flexible work continues as employees return to the office
- Almost half (45%) of those surveyed say their company’s office (s) have reopened, but working in the office is optional. Almost one in five (19%) say their business offices have reopened and most / all employees are required to work from the office at least one day per week. Just over a quarter (27%) say 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 say that their company’s offices have reopened and that most or all employees can currently choose to work in the office or at home .
- More than half (52%) expect most employees to work from the office on certain days and from home on other days when offices fully reopen. Fewer expect most employees to return to the office full time most days (18%), employees will make the decision themselves (13%), or most employees will work from home most of the time (9%). Fewer respondents say they expect employees to have other working arrangements (6%) or that they are unsure (3%).
- Respondents based in Europe (64%) are more likely than those based in North America (49%) to expect most employees to work in the office on certain days and at home on other days.