The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is closely monitoring the newest COVID variant, Omicron, which was announced around Thanksgiving as cases surged in the Southern countries of the African continent. As of December 21, 2021, it is now the dominant variant for COVID cases throughout Europe and now the US.
As GBTA has been on the forefront of the business travel community during the pandemic, the association gathered feedback from members on the how Omicron is affecting global travel recovery. According to the poll, most companies are taking a wait-and-see approach before introducing new restrictions or requirements for business travel. Additionally, a clear majority feel countries should require international visitors to prove they are fully vaccinated, and that pre-trip negative tests should be required regardless of vaccination status. Note that data was collected December 6-12 and that new information about Omicron has been learned over time.
“As we move through the pandemic, I think this shows the business travel industry is taking a thoughtful, informed, and adaptive approach even as new variants may emerge,” said GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang. “Without clear scientific data, we know knee-jerk restrictions on travel do not generate an effective outcome and taking actions such as border closures and frequently changing entry rules only add to the confusion. Companies and travelers are better equipped now with policies and processes to safely mitigate risk and support traveling, as long as testing and vaccines remain a part of the equation.”
Some highlights of the poll:
- Eight in ten (82 percent) respondents are concerned or very concerned about the revenue impact to companies in the business travel sector.
- Seven in ten (69 percent) report they are concerned in some capacity about employment and (re)hiring, while six in ten (61 percent) are concerned about the safety of business travel.
- Omicron has likely impacted at least a portion of bookings for business travel suppliers and TMCs. One in three (37 percent) report their bookings have decreased while a third (35 percent) say bookings have remained the same.
On a global basis, there are indicators of a more wait-and-see approach to introducing new restrictions or requirements for business travel:
- Half (53 percent) report their company is unlikely to introduce new restrictions, while one in five (19 percent) report their company is considering doing so.
- Less than a fifth (17 percent) of respondents said their company introduced new restrictions on non-essential business travel or new requirements related to business travel due to Omicron.
In Europe, where the variant debuted a week or so before it hit the US, caution is high:
- Respondents based in Europe (90 percent) are more likely to say they are concerned or very concerned about the revenue impact to companies in the business travel sector compared to those based in North America (79 percent).
- Travel supplier respondents in Europe (61 percent) are more likely to report their bookings have decreased compared to respondents in North America (29 percent).
- While still far fewer than half, Europe-based respondents (32 percent) are much more likely than North America-based buyers to say they have introduced new restrictions (12 percent).
The survey results can be viewed here.
Visit gbta.org for more information.