The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) recently released the findings from its twentieth COVID poll assessing how GBTA members are managing the return to business travel. The poll was conducted across its international membership from June 7-11, 2021.
The first poll of this summer revealed a continuation of the positive momentum reported last month, as companies implement or finalize plans to resume domestic business travel. Two-fifths (40 percent) of respondents say their company’s plan to resume non-essential domestic business travel has “already happened” in the country where they are based, compared with last month’s 34 percent allowing “some” domestic travel. An additional one-third (33 percent) say their company has finalized a date (8 percent)—or is working to finalize a date (25 percent)—to resume domestic business travel. Only one-quarter are “waiting to see what happens” (18 percent) or are “not sure” (6 percent).
While domestic business travel nears a return, the outlook for international business travel remains murky. More than three in five respondents (62 percent) say their company is waiting to see what happens or is not sure about resuming non-essential international business travel from the country where they are based. And in Canada, both domestic and international business travel plans have stalled or been delayed (the country is partially reopening to vaccinated travelers in early July).
“After a spring marked by growing optimism in most regions, many companies are now making plans to resume business travel—especially in the US and Europe. While there is still caution around cross-border travel, almost three-quarters of our poll respondents say their company has resumed non-essential domestic business trips, or is working to finalize a date to resume these trips,” said GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang. ”While this is an important breakthrough, our research says it will take some time for companies to allow as many trips—or even the same kind of travel—as they did before the pandemic.”
Employee willingness to travel continues to grow. Three in four (77 percent) feel their employees are “somewhat willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment. This is 12 percentage points higher than in the last poll (May 2021).
Most travel buyers report an increase in business travel spend. When asked how their company travel spend changed in May 2021 compared to the prior month, six in ten (60 percent) report their company’s spending increased “somewhat” to “a lot,” whereas one in four report spending remained “the same.” Only 15 percent report travel spend decreased (13 percent) or are unsure (2 percent). Respondents based in the US (68 percent) are more likely than those based in Europe (54 percent) to say their company’s travel spend has increased from the previous month.
Companies are making plans to resume domestic business. Two in five respondents (40 percent) say their company’s plan to resume non-essential domestic business travel has already happened. An additional one-third say their company has decided on a date to resume domestic business travel (8 percent) or is working to finalize a date but has not decided or announced one yet (25 percent). Only one-quarter say their company is waiting to see what happens (18 percent) or are not sure.
Many companies are taking a wait-and-see approach with international business travel. Only one in 10 respondents (12 percent) say their company’s plan to resume international business travel “has already happened.” One-in-four say their company has decided on or announced a date to resume international travel (5 percent) or is working to finalize a date (21 percent). However, most say their company is “waiting to see what happens” (39 percent) or are not sure (23 percent).
Sales/account management trips and blue-collar service trips will lead the recovery. More than half expect the number of these trips will return to the pre-pandemic level within a year. However, expectations regarding other types of trips—such as internal collaboration and education/professional development trips—will take longer to recover. One-fifth (19 percent) expect the number of internal collaboration trips will never recover to the pre-pandemic level.
Companies finalize office re-opening plans. Two in five (43 percent) say their company’s office reopening plan has already happened in the country where they are based. Almost half say their company has decided on or announced a date (24 percent) to reopen the office or are working to finalize a date (21 percent).
Will new remote work policies impact business travel? Among respondents who expect their company will allow more flexibility to work from home, two-thirds (65 percent) expect the change will not affect business travel. One-third (30 percent) expect increased flexibility will lead to less business travel while five percent expect it will lead to more business
Click here to view the entire results of this and previous polls.
Visit gbta.org for more information.