Optimistic and tangible signs of recovery in the business travel sector could be seen over the past month. In the latest poll from The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), 52% of industry respondents reported more optimism compared to September. October also saw an increase to 66% of those polled who said their companies are allowing non-essential domestic business travel and, in a high for the year, 42% are now also allowing international travel, while 55% of suppliers say their bookings from corporate customers increased from last month.
74% indicated support for the opening of US borders (now slated for 8 November) with the required protocols, with seven in 10 expecting an increase in international business travel over the next six months as a result. GBTA members and stakeholders strongly agree that reduced infection rates and increased vaccinations will accelerate business travel at their company, with 59% indicating increased vaccination rates around the world would be a top driver.
There’s still a road ahead for recovery but we’re delighted to see the opening up of borders and a return to non-essential business travel. While we have seen ever-increasing domestic and short-haul travel, a more accelerated recovery has been hindered by the lack of international trans-Atlantic travel. The opening of the much-anticipated Europe and UK to US travel corridors, as well as the opening of land borders to Canada and Mexico, will give a much-needed boost to the business travel ecosystem and global economy. Safety and duty of care continue to be of upmost importance to our members, who overwhelmingly support vaccine programs as well as smart travel policies to ensure a safe return to business travel, meetings and events.
Here are some highlights from the October GBTA poll:
• Support and expectations for US border openings
Support is strong for the US policy to open borders with new requirements for international visitors to enter the USA, including proof of vaccinations status, and proof of a negative Covid -19 test result within three days of travel departure. Three in four U.S.-based GBTA members and stakeholders strongly support (50%) or support (24%) the policy, and one in five (17%) are neutral of the policy.
Additionally, 73% of respondents believe the US policy will greatly or moderately increase international business travel to the US in the next six months. One in four (26%) believe the policy will only slightly increase international business travel to the USA.
• Optimism coming back
Supplier and travel management company staff are more optimistic about the industry’s path to recovery compared to a month ago. 52% report they feel more optimistic compared to a month ago (22% in the September poll). Only 10% say they feel more pessimistic about the industry’s path to recovery compared to a month ago (27%).
• Greenlighting business travel
The October poll saw an increase to 66% in respondents reporting their companies usually or sometimes allow non-essential domestic business travel, up from 61% in September. Non-essential international business travel followed a similar trend, up to 42% (from 34% in September).
• Road warriors are ready
Among those who stated they have travelled less or much less for business than they did pre-pandemic, 70% say they miss travelling for business and are eager to travel for business more in the future. 21% do not miss travelling for business and wouldn’t mind travelling less in the future and 10% are unsure. Respondents based in Europe (31%) are more likely to not miss business travel compared to those in North America (19%).
Three in four (78%) GBTA buyer and procurement members feel their company’s employees are “willing” or “very willing”’ to travel for business in the current environment. After two months of declines, this figure increased 10 percentage points from September, and has now surpassed its summer peak (77% in June and July). 85% of respondents report they currently travel “less” or “much less” than before the pandemic, whereas 14% report they travel about the same amount as before. Only 2% report they travel “more” or “much more” than before the pandemic.
• Supplier bookings regain momentum
This month 55% of suppliers say their bookings from corporate customers increased from last month, while only 19% say their bookings decreased. Last month, 32% of travel suppliers said their bookings from corporate customers increased in the past month and 38% said their bookings decreased.
• Drivers of business travel’s return
GBTA members and stakeholders strongly agree reduced infection rates and increased vaccinations will accelerate the volume of business travel at their company. Top drivers include increased vaccination rates around the world (59%); increased vaccination rates across the region or country (39%); and increased employee vaccination rates (33%). Three in four (77%) say the overall reduction in Covid-19 transmission rates at venues where their company would hold or attend meetings would increase their volume of business travel.
• Vaccine programme support
Nine in 10 (90%) respondents report they are fully vaccinated. This includes 89% of travel managers and 92% of travel suppliers. And support for vaccine requirements is strong, including:
|Support government policies that would require proof of full vaccination to do the following:||Yes||No||Don’t Know|
|Travel on a train||65%||28%||7%|
|Stay in a hotel||51%||38%||10%|
|Rent/hire a car||44%||44%||12%|
|Eat in a restaurant||53%||39%||8%|
|Attend larger conferences, larger meetings, and events||69%||24%||7%|
• No mandate, no barriers.
Companies do not largely mandate vaccinations to conduct key business functions.
|Does your company require employees to be fully vaccinated to…?||Yes||No|
|Travel for business and/or meet clients or customers face-to-face||40%||60%|
|Return to the office and work from the office||37%||63%|
|Attend meetings, conferences, and events||41%||59%|
Respondents based in Europe (73%) are more likely than respondents based in North America (58%) to say they do not require vaccinations to travel to travel for business and/or meet clients or customers face-to-face. Likewise, respondents based in Europe (85%) are more likely than those based in North America (59%) to say they do not require vaccinations to travel to return to the office and work from the office.
• Will documentation delays dampen recovery?
GBTA members and stakeholders raised concern about the impact of delays for issuing passports and visas on the resumption of international business travel. 52% are either very concerned or concerned about passport and visa delays impacting international business travel and an additional 25% are neutral about the impact. 17% are not too concerned.
• Some offices open, flexible working the norm
Two-thirds of respondents (67%) still have significant flexibility to work from home. This includes those who say their company’s offices largely have not re-opened (31%) or have permanently closed (2%), and those who say their offices have re-opened but employees can choose to work from the office or from home (34%). 55% of respondents say their company treats office re-openings consistently across all locations, while 33% do not. However, an additional 11% do not know.
31% of respondents note their company’s offices have not largely reopened, and the majority of employees continue to work from home/remotely. Respondents based in North America (34%) are more likely than those based in Europe (15%) to say their company’s offices have not largely reopened, and the majority of employees continue to work from home/remotely.
You can view details and key highlights from GBTA’s October 2021 poll as well as the entire poll series here.
GBTA conducted a poll of its members and other industry stakeholders across the globe from 4-13 October, 2021. A total of 503 responses were received.
About the Global Business Travel Association
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s largest business travel and meetings trade organisation, headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations across four continents. GBTA’s 9,000-plus members manage more than US$345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually.