With Thanksgiving spiking as the busiest travel weekend (especially for air travel) since the beginning of the pandemic, it comes as no surprise that a recent Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) survey found that half (50 percent) of GBTA travel buyer and procurement professionals feel their employees are ‘willing’ or ‘very willing’ to travel for business in the current environment. Only one in five (22 percent) GBTA members feel their employees are not willing, demonstrating a strong readiness to resume business travel. The poll was conducted November 9-16, 2020.
Recent announcements of potential, effective vaccines with 90 percent+ efficacy rate in clinical trials has increased sentiment among respondents that their company will be more likely to allow business travel and employees to attend in-person meetings in 2021. Three in five GBTA members say their company would be ‘likely’ (44 percent) or ‘very likely’ (16 percent) to allow business travel with this prospect, while one in five (19 percent) are neutral (i.e., neither likely nor unlikely). Only 10 percent say their company unlikely and are 11 percent unsure.
When asked about government restrictions, the majority of respondents feel there should be an exception to mandated quarantine requirements for international business travelers, who take short-duration business trips that involve meeting with only a few people. Six in ten (58 percent) respondents are interested (with 28 percent ‘very interested’) in seeing this proposal adopted. This figure is significantly higher in Europe with 66 percent interested in this proposal compared to 55 percent in North America.
Survey respondents believe their company would be willing to implement a policy to encourage employees to download a ‘track and trace’ app for business travelers to assist with contact tracing efforts. Half (49 percent) feel their company would be ‘willing’ or ‘very willing’ to encourage employees to download such an app, while one-third (35 percent) think their company would be neither willing nor unwilling to do so. GBTA respondents based in Europe (62 percent) are more likely than members based in North America (44 percent) to say they think their company would be willing to encourage downloading contact tracing apps.
When asked about the timescales around a return to 2019 levels of business travel, six in ten (60 percent) European buyers expect domestic business travel to take 4-9 months to reach at least 50 percent of 2019 levels. In addition, half (50 percent) expect regional business travel to take 4-9 months to reach at least 50 percent of 2019 volumes. Long-haul business travel is expected to take longer to reach at least half of 2019’s level, with six in ten (63 percent) European buyers/procurement professionals expecting it to take between 10-24 months.
Among non-European buyers, half (58 percent) expect domestic business travel to reach at least 50 percent of 2019’s level in the next 1-9 months whereas expectations for international travel will take longer with 54 percent expecting it will take 10-24 months to reach at least 50 percent of 2019’s level.
“The news of a vaccine has been well received among our members with an uplift in activity as the industry collaborates to find a safe and responsible return to travel. Adhoc government restrictions continue to be the main deterrent and GBTA continues to advocate for a unified approach across the world,” commented Interim Executive Director Dave Hilfman.
Travel suppliers throughout the industry have introduced new safety standards and protocols as a result of the pandemic. These include service changes (e.g., flight reductions), policy changes (e.g., eliminating change fees) and new sanitation practices. Communication campaigns have been key in alleviating fears. GBTA travel buyer and procurement professionals perceive communication campaigns from airlines (84 percent), hotel sectors (78 percent), ground transportation (52 percent) and travel management sectors (51 percent) as being effective.
View the entire poll results here.
In other news, GBTA has completed its acquisition of key assets of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), continuing its pledge to unify the industry and help lead business travel out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the integration effort, two former ACTE Board members will join the GBTA Global Board of directors effective immediately. Alison Taylor, Chief Customer Officer of American Airlines, will serve the remainder of the vacant ALC Vice Presidency. Steve Sitto, Sr. Manager, Global Travel and Events for Tesla, Inc., will serve the remainder of the vacant Direct Member At-Large term. Both terms will be completed at the time of the GBTA Convention in July 2021.
A committee led by GBTA Chairman Christle Johnson and former ACTE Executive Director and current DigitTravel Consulting Senior Vice President Greeley Koch will work together with GBTA staff and industry volunteers to identify the best value a combined GBTA and ACTE can deliver to its members.
“The addition of an amazing brand like ACTE will give GBTA members the absolute best opportunities for education, networking, research and advocacy. We look forward to combining the best attributes of both associations with our Ready. Safe. Travel campaign as we continue to advocate for business travel’s path to recovery,” said Hilfman.
Visit gbta.org for more information.