As signs of recovery continue in the business travel sector, travel procurement professionals are prioritizing the health and safety of employees according to a new poll released on July 16 by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). More than half of travel buyers reported their company has changed its travel policy and 70 percent characterize the policy changes as being ‘somewhat’ or ‘a lot.’ When asked what travel program changes have been made due to the pandemic, instituting new rules about pre-trip approval (53 percent), having more frequent or detailed pre-trip communications or briefings (35 percent), collecting health information (virus exposure or preexisting conditions) from employee travelers (24 percent); and clarifying or changing rules about ticket credits/unused tickets (22 percent) were cited most frequently.
Consistent guidelines and standards continue to be critically important across all verticals in business travel; however, there is a need for more communication of safety protocols. While a majority of GBTA companies (68 percent) said they have enough information on supplier cleaning and sanitation practices, one-quarter said they would still like more (24 percent). In addition, half (49 percent) felt they have enough information about operational changes such as flight rescheduling or check-in procedures, but one-third (37 percent) said they would like more information.
Despite the rising infection rates in some parts of the world, companies are still considering a return to travel. Half (49 percent) are considering resuming all travel (regardless of country or region) in the near future, although do not currently have definite plans. Only one in five (18 percent) GBTA member companies report they do not plan to resume all travel in the near future.
Plan to Resume Travel in Near Future
|Considering Resuming in Near Future, but No Definite Plans||Do Not Plan to Resume in Near Future||Not Sure|
|Asia Pacific (minus China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan)||11%||36%||33%||20%|
|All International Travel||10%||43%||29%||18%|
|All Domestic Travel||34%||40%||12%||13%|
Domestic and essential business travel is likely to resume first. Among respondents who reported their company has canceled at least some domestic business trips, four in ten (44 percent) expect domestic travel to resume in the next 2-3 months. One in three expects domestic travel to resume in the next 6-8 months (34 percent) or are unsure (15 percent). GBTA members in Europe (77 percent) are more likely than members in North America (37 percent) to expect domestic business travel to return in the next 2-3 months.
Among GBTA companies that have canceled at least some international business trips, one in ten (16 percent) said they expect international travel to resume in the next 2-3 months. Two in five expect international travel to resume in the next 6-8 months (40 percent) and one in four are unsure (25 percent) as to when international travel will resume. GBTA companies based in Europe (33 percent) are more likely to expect international business travel to resume in the next 2-3 months than are members based in North America (13 percent).
The return to travel from a supplier perspective follows a similar geographical divide, with more travel suppliers and travel management companies (TMCs) in Europe reporting an increase in bookings (50 percent) than in the U.S. (27 percent). Note: Cases have been trending upward in the U.S. since late June while staying flat in many parts of Europe and Asia. This poll was conducted July 7-13 and included respondents from around the globe.
“The slow recovery of business travel continues with a noticeable uplift in Europe. The U.S. recovery has remained largely static, probably in line with new COVID-19 cases that dominate our headlines, slowing progress,” said GBTA Executive Director Dave Hilfman.
“GBTA is continuing to support members to introduce consistent health and safety measures for every travel vertical, a key requirement to enable travel programs to resume. As we have seen from the poll results, buyers have had to adapt to the changing demands, significantly altering travel policy to reflect the necessary increase in health and safety protocols. GBTA is working with our buyer members to help navigate the new norm and road to recovery.”
When asked how COVID-19 had impacted their organizations, 81 percent of travel suppliers have furloughed employees and 78 percent have reduced or laid-off staff. Half (53 percent) of companies who have furloughed employees have returned some or all staff to work in some capacity.
Most respondents felt the business travel industry has experienced the worst in terms of canceled flights (73 percent) and hotel operations suspension (66 percent). However, one in four said they believe the worst is yet to come in terms of layoffs/furloughs and revenue loss (44 percent each).
The poll conducted by GBTA is the 9th poll of the membership to measure the effects of COVID-19 on business travel. The poll was fielded from July 7-13, 2020, and received 2,167 responses from member companies globally. View the entire poll results here.
Visit gbta.org for more information.