Experts say that firstly will recover from the consequences of the pandemic the leisure travel and then the business travel. In fact, at the end of 2020 surveys showed that business travel would be down up to almost 50%. According to recent data, things are changing. People seem to look forward to starting again face-to-face business meetings and events. Especially, as Covid-19 vaccines roll out at a fast-growing pace and people feel safer to travel again and meet their partners at business meetings and events.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) in a recent poll of its members found that 79% would be “very comfortable” or “comfortable” traveling for business after receiving the Covid-19 vaccination. The findings showed that 55% of the participant companies feel their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment, while 68% of GBTA members and stakeholders admitted that border closures and restrictions have reduced business travel at their company.
The above findings show some signs of optimism, inverting previous surveys. For example, research from GBR Consulting for the 3rd quarter of 2020 stressed that the international business sector has been “hit” hard and is expected to return to the levels of 2019 after 2024. The research was commenting that this has a significant impact on tourism as those who travel for business spend a lot of money. For airlines, the business sector represents a small portion of passengers but a large share of profits.
When business tourism returns, it is certain that it will have undergone changes. Of course, according to some comments of GBR Consulting with regard to the findings of the research, the MICE industry has already adopted hybrid / digital solutions, replacing meetings or events with a physical presence, which are expected to return in the long run.
Another recent survey from IATA, came to the conclusion that 62% of the respondents are likely to travel less for business even after the virus is contained. That is, however, a significant improvement from the 72% recorded in September 2020.
Furthermore, the European Travel Commission conducted a similar survey emphasizing that pessimistic forecasts will not be confirmed and by 2024 the sector of business travel will fully recover. Although business travel has shrunk since the start of the pandemic and it has been replaced by the use of digital tools for communication between executives, ETC estimates that in the near future and as long as the pandemic is under control, the business travel industry will recover as face-to-face meetings will remain a key element. As ETC notes, personal contact remains an essential feature for business. It should also be considered that crowded events can’t be completely replaced by digital alternatives.
The European Travel Commission states that do not share Bill Gates’ pessimism about the future of business travel and expects that the expenses for international business travel will reach the levels of 2019 around 2024, while business traveling domestically (within each European country) will recover by 2023.
Lastly, business travel allows for more personal interaction and minimizes the risk of miscommunication. The SAP Concur survey in mid-2020 highlighted the importance of face-to-face contact, with 92% of business travelers expecting their company to experience negative results due to travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, mainly in the field of dealing with new agreements.