The business travel industry continues to report an overall willingness and optimism about the return to travel. However, the rise of the Delta and other variants has become a cause for uncertainty and increased concern over the past month. This is according to the latest poll from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA)—its 22nd since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Business travel continues to make progress and show small gains on the road to recovery. The Delta variant has introduced a bit of a detour, at least for the near term. With the support of adequate risk mitigation, travelers continue getting back to business during a pandemic that is not going away as quickly as hoped,” said GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang. “The industry continues to be resilient, adaptable, and committed to moving forward for safe and responsible business travel for employees and companies around the world.”
Solid indicators on the road to business travel recovery
- More travel ahead. Over half reported they expect business travel will see a ‘significant’ (8 percent) or ‘moderate’ (47 percent) increase between September and November 2021. Respondents from Europe (75 percent) are more likely than those in North America (51 percent) to expect that business travel will see a significant or moderate increase during this time.
- Spending ticks up, bookings steady. When travel buyers and procurement professionals were asked how company travel spend had changed compared to the prior month, over half (56 percent) reported their company’s spending increased ‘somewhat to a lot.’ When travel suppliers and travel management companies were asked about their bookings in the previous week, almost half (46 percent) report their bookings had ‘remained the same.’
- Small gains. Poll respondents reported a slight increase in re-opening international and domestic travel versus the month prior. In the current poll, 78 percent had not opened international travel, compared to 86 percent in July. Forty-one percent have not re-opened domestic travel, versus 50 percent last month. Fewer respondents (51 percent) reported they continue to suspend or cancel all business travel regardless of location (down from 60 percent in the July poll).
- Staying the course. Despite growing concerns about the Delta variant, only 21 percent said their company has introduced new restrictions on non-essential business travel at this point. Almost half (49 percent) said their company is unlikely to introduce new restrictions, while one in four (25 percent) are considering introducing new restrictions. Respondents from Europe (66 percent) are more likely than those in North America (45 percent) to report their company is unlikely to introduce new restrictions on non-essential business travel specifically as a result of the Delta variant (or other variants).
Delta derails recovery a bit
- Optimism slows. One-third (34 percent) of supplier and travel management company respondents said they are ‘optimistic’ about the financial prospects of companies in the business travel sector, but less so compared to a month ago. An additional one in four (38 percent) said they feel ‘neither optimistic nor pessimistic,’ and one in four (26 percent) said they feel ‘pessimistic’ about the industry’s financial prospects.
- On hold last month, on hold this month. Eight in ten travel buyers/procurement professionals who work for companies that have not yet resumed non-essential business travel reported their company is likely to delay the resumption of non-essential domestic (81 percent) and international (79 percent) business travel due to the Delta variant (and other variants). Business travel for large, medium, and small meetings, events, or conferences were also most frequently cited as being canceled or suspended.
Travel vaccination policies and employee safety protocols
- Vaxxed to travel? Almost half of respondents said vaccine requirements to perform key business functions are not typically required. Approximately one in five reported their company requires employees to receive a COVID vaccine in order to travel domestically for business (21 percent); meet customers face to face (22 percent); work in the office (20 percent); and attend large meetings, conferences, or events (22 percent).
Respondents from Europe (66 percent) were more likely than those in North America (52 percent) to report their company will not require employees to receive a COVID vaccine before they can meet face to face with clients and customers.
Visit gbta.org for more information.