Business Travel Index – Global Travel Surge Expected

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The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) recently released the results of its latest Business Travel Index–the BTI Outlook, predicting that business travel spending will surge in 2022, with full recovery of pre-pandemic levels expected in 2024.

2021 Travel Analysis

The global business travel recovery that began in late 2020 encountered a few challenges in 2021, as global spend was much lower than the anticipated 14% predicted in February of this year. Pandemic surges, variant introductions, uneven vaccination rates, and mounting supply chain challenges all took their toll on previously forecast growth expectations. Various regions saw different return rates and setbacks throughout the year:

  • North America: Travel in North America led the way in recovery for 2021, rebounding by 27%.
  • Europe: Travel markets lagged in 2021, as Europe gained only 10%. For the region of Western Europe, business travel expenditures for 2021 fell 3.8% from 2020 levels. This stemmed from early year underperformance, however, with recent resurgence, business travel demand in the region is set to outpace most other parts of the world.
  • Asia Pacific: Recovery has been slower, due to lagging border re-openings and a high dependence on international business travel. China’s expected growth was downgraded in 2021 due to challenges posed by financial issues.
  • Latin America: Business Travel performed relatively better in 2021 in terms of percentages, though volumes varied significantly across global regions. This return was boosted by fewer government restrictions and travelers’ desire and confidence to return to business travel. However, rising public debt and interest rates, declining credit ratings, and lower vaccination rates could pose future threats for Latin American business travel.

Yearly Forecasts for the Future of Business Travel Spend

  • 2022: Despite recovery setbacks in 2021, a year-over-year surge of 38% recovery is expected in 2022 as travel demands rise
  • 2023: Recovery will continue, with global spending rising 23% year-over-year as even more international and group travel comes back online
  • 2024: Global business travel is forecasted to have made a full recovery, ending the year at $1.48 trillion or just above the 2019 pre-pandemic spend of $1.4 trillion
  • 2025 global business travel growth is forecast to slow to 4.3%, just below the 10-year average growth rate of 5.1% coming into 2020

What Could Impact These Forecasts?

A few risks that may impact the target recovery include persistent COVID-related disruptions and restrictions, supply chain and labor shortages, rising inflation, increased travel costs, and lagging recovery in some international markets. Additionally, broad adoption of remote working models, long term cuts or elimination of business trips and travel volume, and the increased focus on sustainability practices and policies for business travel may also cause these forecasts to shift.

Requirements for Full Recovery

The BTI Outlook identifies four conditions necessary for full recovery in global business travel: 

  • The global vaccination effort
  • National travel policy
  • Business traveler sentiment
  • Corporate travel management policy 

According to GBTA’s recent survey, 86% of business travelers polled report that they need travel to accomplish their business goals, and four in five (81%) of business travelers say their company already requires vaccines for travel and in-person meetings. 

As these requirements for recovery are implemented, travel managers can expect to face the challenge of juggling duty of care with rising costs, sustainability priorities, and new considerations on the ROI of business travel as they build out their policies for the return to travel. 

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