According to new research issued in late April by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), travel professionals see some signs of optimism and recovery on the horizon. The study found that most companies are planning a recovery for 2020 with one in three planning for a recovery within three months.
To understand the coronavirus’s effects on business travel, GBTA conducted its sixth poll among membership from April 17-22. GBTA received responses from almost 1,600 member companies worldwide—which is key to understanding those data. The virus has impacted the globe, but at different rates. Note: At the time of the poll, total U.S. cases of COVID-19 were below the 1 million threshold and deaths had not yet surpassed 50,000, according to CDC data (as of May 6: total U.S. cases are 1,193,873; total U.S. deaths are 70,802). View the entire poll results here.
“The global business travel industry remains at a standstill, but we are finally beginning to see some light at the end of this very long tunnel,” said GBTA CEO Scott Solombrino. “GBTA members are planning their post-coronavirus recovery plans and most expect to be operational in 2020. This is a positive sign. The majority of GBTA member companies expect domestic business travel to resume in the next two to three months and most expect employees will be willing to travel. We have waited a long time for there to be optimism around the pandemic in our industry, and it should continue to grow as we get closer to halting the spread of this disease.”
Among the poll’s key findings are:
- Most companies are creating a recovery plan in 2020. One-third (35%) of GBTA members say they plan for their company’s post-coronavirus recovery plan in three months or less, while a quarter (27%) say they plan for a post-recovery in six to eight months. In addition, only one in 10 are planning for recovery in 2021, while one in four (28%) report they do not know.
- Among GBTA members who report their company has canceled at least some domestic business trips, six in 10 (62%) say they expect domestic travel to resume in the next two to three months. One in five report they expect domestic travel to resume in the next six to eight months (18%) or are unsure (19%).
- GBTA European members (74%) are more likely than members based in North America (58%) to expect domestic business travel will return in two to three months. In addition, members based in North America (21%) are more likely to be unsure when domestic business travel will resume compared to members based in Europe (12%).
- Eight in 10 European members expect international business travel will resume in two to three months (33%) or six to eight months (47%). Two-thirds of GBTA members in North America expect international travel to resume in two to three months (26%) or six to eight months (38%).
- A majority of GBTA members (88%) expect employees will be willing to travel once restrictions are lifted. GBTA members from North America (90%) are more likely than members from Europe (83%) to expect their employees will be willing to travel after restrictions are lifted.
- Looking at what it will likely take GBTA members to feel comfortable with employees traveling for business, many information resources are perceived as being important including: a decline in new infection rates (92%), governments lifting travel restrictions or advisories (91%), guidelines or statements from public health agencies such as the WHO or CDC (90%), effective anti-viral treatments (89%), removing stay-at-home lockdowns (88%), a new Coronavirus vaccine developed and available to employees (85%), advice from a risk management firm/consultant (e.g., Worldaware or International SOS; 60%), and other companies allowing travel (49%).
- One in five GBTA buyer members note their company has reduced staff or laid off (21%), furloughed (21%), or cut employee salaries (20%) as a result of the coronavirus.
GBTA supplier member optimism about the industry’s path to recovery vary. One in five (19%) say they are more optimistic than they were last week, while six in 10 (57%) say they feel the same as they did last week. One-quarter (24%) feel more pessimistic about the industry’s path to recovery than they did the week prior.
- GBTA supplier members note bookings from corporate customers have remained the same (41%) or decreased (49%) in the past week.
Some GBTA members report their company does allow some essential travel. One-third (35%) say while their company has canceled or suspended all non-essential trips but allows some essential travel.
- GBTA member sentiment varies concerning the impact COVID-19 has had on the industry. When asked about layoffs/furloughs in the corporate travel industry, four in 10 feel the worst has already happened (42%) while an equal number feel the worst has yet to come (41%). GBTA members in North America are more likely to feel the worst has already happened when it comes to layoffs and furloughs (47%) compared to members based in Europe (30%).
- There is more consensus when thinking about canceled flights, with three in four (77%) GBTA members stating the worst has already happened compared to one in 10 (15%) who feel the worst is yet to come.
- Six in 10 (62%) GBTA members feel the worst has already happened concerning hotels suspending operations compared to one in four (26%) who feel the worst is yet to come. GBTA members based in North America (64%) are more likely to feel the worst has already happened regarding hotel suspensions compared to members based in Europe (53%).
- GBTA members are more pessimistic about revenue loss for travel companies. More than half (56%) feel the worst is yet to come in terms of industry revenue loss while one-third (29%) feel the worst has already occurred.
- GBTA member companies have not opened international (98%) or domestic (93%) travel as companies continue to cancel and/or suspend almost all business travel regardless of destination. In fact, almost all GBTA member companies (57%) report they have suspended or canceled all business travel across the board.
- Business travel remains halted across the globe. Companies continue to cancel or suspend almost all business travel regardless of country or region. GBTA members report their companies have canceled or suspended “all” or “most” business trips to:
- China: 99% canceled or suspended
- Hong Kong: 99% canceled or suspended
- Taiwan: 99% canceled or suspended
- Other Asia-Pacific countries (e.g., Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia): 99% canceled or suspended
- Europe: 99% canceled or suspended
- Middle Eastern countries: 98% canceled or suspended
- Latin America: 97% canceled or suspended
- Canada: 95% canceled or suspended
- United States: 95% canceled or suspended
Methodology: GBTA conducted a poll of its members across the globe from April 17-22, 2020. An email invitation was sent to 5,638 travel professionals, and 1,557 responses were received.
Visit gbta.org for more information.