A majority of US corporate travel buyers expect their company’s business travel to ramp up and return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023 despite higher prices and stubborn inflation, according to a new poll, How Travel Managers Will Succeed in 2023, released by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and travel software Spotnana this month. The poll captured the opinions of US-based travel managers during December 2022 and January 2023.
Travel managers largely expect most types of business travel will reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, including domestic business travel (74 percent), external meetings (77 percent), conference/group travel (76 percent), and internal meetings (69 percent). However, one in 10 feel inflation and price concerns will delay full recovery until at least 2025.
With costs still a top concern, both travel managers (54 percent) and senior leadership (65 percent) are prioritizing cost savings. However, travel managers rank traveler experience higher (51 percent) than executives (42 percent), making it more challenging to obtain buy-in to focus beyond costs. The study highlights the increased importance of addressing travel experience metrics, especially as business traveler preferences continue to evolve.
Costs may dominate the conversation, but data is still king for many travel managers—and it’s becoming more complex as well as time consuming. Three in five (62 percent) say cost-focused metrics are the most important measures they will use to evaluate their program’s success in 2023. However, a notable number (32 percent) say travel experience-focused metrics will be the single most important measure they will use to gauge success.
“This latest research not only provides travel managers with beneficial benchmarking data and a glimpse into the priorities of their peers, but also crucial insights for suppliers and other industry stakeholders to make informed decisions and stay ahead as they plan for the future of business travel,” said GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are lingering concerns that leisure and hospitality jobs aren’t keeping pace with the strong economic news that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported for February. The jobs reports was robust and even sparked fears that inflation could persist (too much demand and not enough supply) as 311,000 jobs were added last month, with just over 100,000 in hospitality. According to the US Travel Association (USTA), there are still 1.7 million jobs in the hospitality sector that remain unfilled.
"Travel is essential to our nation’s economy, but its success is reliant on access to workers to serve the traveling public. One way the federal government should address our workforce shortage is to increase the allotment of H-2B visas, which is at least 100,000 short of demand, to provide the industry with the temporary workers it so desperately needs,” said USTA President & CEO Geoff Freeman.