GBTA: Slow recovery in business travel continues amid concerns over COVID variants

While there continues to be general willingness and optimism for the return of business travel, sentiment in the business travel industry continues to falter, due to lingering uncertainty about the Delta variant and other variants. However, indicators show that companies and their business travel managers can consider new areas of interest and new ways of working for their business travel program. That’s according to the latest survey from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

This September poll is the 23rd in a series that follows the pulse of GBTA members among travel buyers, suppliers and other stakeholders around the world on how the business travel industry as a whole sails back from travel, after the pandemic.

“It is no surprise that for a second consecutive month, buyers and suppliers to the travel industry continue to report continued caution regarding travel variants and restrictions as key factors impacting this. which would otherwise be a more accelerated return to business travel, ”said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA. “The recent news regarding the opening of the United States to British and European business travelers will hopefully alleviate some of the concerns and provide a much needed boost to the business travel ecosystem until the end. of the year. Additionally, we are seeing the first signs of new ways of thinking in business travel programs, including the importance of working more closely with business travel managers and travel management companies.

Here are some highlights from the September GBTA survey:

  • Consistent with the August poll results, those polled in September say that non-essential domestic business travel (61%) is more frequently permitted than non-essential international business travel (34%).
    In addition, the Delta variant / other variants continue to delay the resumption of non-essential domestic and international business travel. Among buying members and GBTA contacts whose companies ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ allow non-essential business travel, eight in 10 say their business is likely to delay the resumption of domestic non-essential travel (81%) and international (80%). business trips due to Delta variant / other variants.
  • Consistently over the past three months, GBTA buyers rate their employees as “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in today’s environment, as reported by 68% in the September survey.
  • Nearly one in five respondents (22%) of travel suppliers and travel management companies say they feel more optimistic than a month ago, compared to 15% in the August poll. However, 27% say they feel more pessimistic about the industry’s path to recovery, compared to 39% in the August poll. Almost half (51%) say they feel the same way.
  • Most companies say they do not require COVID-19 testing before or after employees travel for business, to attend a meeting or event, or to return to the office, regardless of the immunization status of the employee. the employee. In the United States, 73% said they did not require testing. In Europe, 67% do not require testing and 39% in Canada, although it is important to consider national health policies versus company policies when considering testing requirements in various country. Of those who note that their business requires COVID-19 testing, 60% say their business pays or reimburses the costs in full.
  • Consistent with the August findings, few respondents say their company has introduced new restrictions on non-essential business travel at this point on non-essential business travel due to Delta / other variants. Just over half (51%) say their business is unlikely to introduce new restrictions, and only 23% say their business has introduced new restrictions.
  • In September, 66% report that due to the pandemic, their roles as buyers and procurement professionals in companies have changed “slightly” to “a lot”. This includes:
    • collaborate more closely with other departments (71%) such as human resources, finance, legal, risk management or other teams
    • make due diligence a higher priority in the business (70%)
    • develop new approaches or revisions to current business travel guidelines (69%)
    • sit on new interdepartmental committees or working groups (44%)
    • integrate or prioritize more sustainable development policies in the company’s travel program (40%). When it comes to sustainability policies, respondents based in Europe (55%) are more likely than in North America (35%) to say that this goal is now more part of their role than before the pandemic.

Among travel buyers and procurement professionals, many report spending “more” or “much more” time than before the pandemic collaborating with other business stakeholders, particularly security / safety. risk management (66%), human resources (51%) and senior management / C-suite (46%).

  • Even with business travel down from previous years due to COVID-19, more than a third (37%) of travel buyers and procurement professionals say they are ‘over’ or “Much more” now dependent on their travel management company (TMC) than they were before the pandemic.
  • About two in five GBTA members and stakeholders (41%) say their company has reassessed the ROI of business travel in terms of importance and value. Among those who say their business is reassessing, top areas include an increased focus on traveler well-being and safety (56%); increased use of hybrid meetings (combined in-person and virtual) (52%); reduced travel for internal collaboration meetings (49%); and reduction in overall travel costs (48%).

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