Business travel volumes continue to rebound, with international travel narrowing the gap on domestic trips, according to the latest Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) industry poll.
On average, travel managers estimate their company’s international business travel is back to 50 per cent of 2019 levels, while domestic business travel volume has reached 63 per cent, according to the survey, which included responses from 594 travel buyers and suppliers.
An additional 26 per cent of respondents estimate their international business travel volume has recovered to more than 70 per cent of their company’s pre-pandemic levels.
Companies are also easing travel policy restrictions, with 86 per cent of respondents saying non-essential domestic business travel is sometimes or usually allowed, while 74 per cent said the same for non-essential international business travel.
GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang said the industry is showing “positive indicators and sentiment for 2023” even as the global recovery remains nascent.
“Asia is still opening its borders, international business travel in general started picking up only earlier this year across the globe, and the US has only permitted unrestricted travel since June,” she said.
As travel bookings and spending continue to recover, the survey found economic considerations are now the top concern for corporates, eclipsing worries related to Covid-19.
However, the majority (75 per cent) of travel buyers surveyed said their company had no immediate plans to limit business travel because of economic concerns. One-third said their company is unlikely to limit business travel, while 45 per cent said they are taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach but are not seriously considering limiting business travel due to economic concerns.
Business travel volumes are expected to increase further in 2023, with 78 per cent of surveyed travel managers anticipating the number of business trips taken by employees to be ‘higher or much higher’ in 2023 versus 2022. More than 65 per cent of travel managers are also optimistic their company will conduct more internal and external meetings.
The survey also assessed how new ways of working are likely to affect business travel and found that remote and hybrid working models, embraced by 88 per cent of industry respondents, are unlikely to impact business travel volumes. Fourteen per cent of respondents with a hybrid or remote work policy expect it will lead to more business travel, while another 14 per expect it will lead to less business travel.
However, two in five travel managers (41 per cent) reported an increase in the desire for blended or ‘bleisure’ travel among employees.