The vast majority of UK firms (95 per cent) recognise that resuming business travel is important for them, even though the number of journeys remains below 2019 levels, according to a new report commissioned by the Business Travel Association (BTA).
The report, which was put together by CBI Economics, found that business travel by UK-based organisations is expected to bounce back further during 2023, driven by the need to meet with both existing and potential new clients.
Some 80 per cent of companies said they preferred face-to-face meetings post-pandemic because they provided “immediate feedback, the ability to read a room, develop deeper relationships and often lead to swifter transactions”.
The top reasons for travel were meeting with existing clients and prospects, as well as attending exhibitions and shows.
Clive Wratten, CEO of the BTA, said: “Our report unequivocally shows that business travel is so much more than suited executives turning left on a plane. It impacts the entire business network across the UK and worldwide.”
The total impact of the business travel industry to the UK economy last year was calculated at £27.5 billion in GVA (gross value added) and the sector accounted for more than 283,500 jobs.
“What surprised me most was that this represents around 1 per cent of the UK economy,” said CBI Economics director Mohammad Jamei.
The report, which was released at the BTA’s spring conference in London on Monday (6 March), found that around two-thirds of both domestic and international business travellers in the UK travelled less frequently in 2022 than they did in 2019 before the Covid-19 crisis.
Larger organisations in the UK saw a “greater widespread reduction” in both domestic and international business travel last year, compared to SMEs where the return to travel has so far been quicker.
Seven out of ten businesses cited virtual meetings as the main reason for limiting business travel, followed by concerns around cost (60 per cent) and a growing concern for the environment (29 per cent).
“We cannot let the hybrid legacy of remote meetings check economic growth that has for generations been stimulated by face-to-face meetings,” argued Wratten. “It is crucial that we now focus our efforts on promoting and protecting public transport networks to sustainably keep Britain moving.
“Business leaders need to stop and think which is more likely to help their organisations grow and prosper – a distant and constrained Teams or Zoom call that is hard to read or the ability to meet in person.”