The take-off of business travel seems imminent

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Have you seen all the photos of people at professional live events recently? It’s time to take off the masks, raise the flaps and pack up your tray for business trips, according to several reports and market signals.

On Thursday, April 21, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) released the results of a survey of its members indicating that 86% of companies are now accepting non-essential domestic business travel. For context, that reflects a 10 percentage point increase since the association’s last poll in February.

“We are seeing significant gains in the return of business travel, particularly over the past two months,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO of GBTA. “Booking levels and travel spending continue to return, and there are high levels of employee optimism and willingness to travel for business.”

Of all companies that have canceled or suspended most or all travel to a specific country, three-quarters plan to resume domestic travel and just over half plan to resume international travel in the next three months, a added the association.

See also: Business travel unlikely to return to 2019 levels until 2024 – if ever

This news was timely given that major airlines reported this week and offer an equally sunny outlook on the rebound in business travel in 2022 as the second quarter kicks off.

But remember that not everyone’s outlook is dynamic. In November, Anthony Jackson, head of US airlines at Deloitte, told the Wall Street Journal that “companies are reassessing and trying to figure out where traveling makes sense and where it doesn’t. Technology will change behaviors and the way businesses do their jobs.

Card issuers have said business travel spending could remain depressed and take until 2025 to reach 75% of 2019 spending. This is consistent with industry analysts who also say that 25% of business travel may never return, as technology provides suitable substitutes – and the days of jumping on a plane for a meeting are long gone. The impact of inflation on corporate belt-tightening is further fueling uncertainty, and CFOs who were used to tiny travel and event budgets are coming back to save money. The war in Ukraine and COVID-19 in some parts of the world will continue to be a factor in the pace of recovery.

Improved airlines

On Wednesday April 20, United Airlines said it expects to return to profit in the second quarter, adding that it sees all signs of a rapid return to business demand, including in Asia.

Pointing to record revenues in March, rival American Airlines said on Thursday (April 21) that ‘revenues for small and medium-sized businesses and customers traveling for a mix of business and leisure remain very strong and are approaching a recovery sold out, and business bookings are the highest since the pandemic began. »

Well, that’s not exactly saying much since the start of the pandemic was clearly a very low watering hole for the travel industry.

Demand for international travel has also increased significantly as restrictions have been lifted, American said.

On the news, the Wall Street Journal reported, “While trans-Pacific travel is still depressed, American believes overall business revenue will hit 90% of 2019 levels in the second quarter, up from 50% currently. On long-haul flights, “we’re not only seeing more customers simply signing up for flights, but filling premium cabins at an increasingly better fare,” chief commercial officer Vasu Raja told analysts on Thursday.

The industry has continued to gain momentum, The New York Times reported, with Delta reporting that March sales broke an all-time high set in 2019, despite a 10% reduction in seating capacity since then.

See also: Saber and eRoam launch travel solution for agencies

Echoing this optimistic reading, Reuters reported on Thursday that “airline fares have risen more than 50% year-on-year, according to data from research firm Cowen. United, which passes the majority of its fuel costs on to its customers, said demand for business, leisure and cargo traffic remains strong despite rising ticket prices.

At least for now.

Hotels await corporate crowds

These business travelers will need hotel rooms, and a lodging sector badly affected by the pandemic is eagerly awaiting their arrival.

On this point, the US Travel Association (USTA) released the results of its Quarterly Business Travel Tracker in early April, finding that “84% of business travelers expect to make at least one trip to attend conferences, conventions or trade shows over the next six months.”

Rather than fearing COVID-19 and its variants, the USTA survey found that potential business travelers are experiencing uncertainty about “meetings and events not happening. Corporate policies restricting business travel were the second most important reason for uncertainty.

See also: How COVID has made hotels rethink business travel

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