European business travel recovery will lag behind other markets

Europe’s business travel market will recover more slowly from the Covid crisis than other regions, according to research by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

The annual BTI Outlook from GBTA suggests: “Whilst a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels is expected globally by 2025, data for Western Europe shows business travel may take longer to reach pre-pandemic levels.

“By 2024 we expect business travel in Western Europe to recover to 78% of 2019 business travel levels ($261 billion). Emerging (eastern) Europe is expected to recover fully by 2024.”

Business travel spending is projected to rise in Western Europe in 2021 by 18.5%.

“Most of this gain is expected to come at the end of 2021 as vaccinations increase globally and business confidence returns,” said the report.

“The biggest economic recovery is to come from the emerging markets, particularly the Asian markets who will continue to drive the global economic growth in 2021 and beyond.”

The report said GDP in the eurozone is estimated to have shrunk by 7.4% in 2020 – compared to 4.4% globally – reflecting a sharper Covid-driven downturn than in many advanced economies.

“In the UK, the downturn is more severe with predicted growth down by -11.2% GDP in 2020 due to a slower pandemic response and the ongoing Brexit uncertainty in 2020,” said the Outlook report.

“Out of the top 15 business travel markets in 2020, the UK, US and Germany are predicted to be worst hit falling by 61.7%, 61.1% and 60.9% in business travel spend respectively.”

Europe accounted for 27% of global business travel in 2019, attributing $392 billion to the $1.43 trillion global business travel expenditure.

Business travel in Western Europe accounted for approximately 23.4% of this global figure and Eastern Europe accounted for 4%.

The six largest markets in the region – Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherland – accounted for 76.7% of expenditure in Western Europe.

European spending on business travel is estimated to decrease by 58% year-on-year to $140 billion in 2020, making it one of the worst hit regions, along with North America.

Looking at the period of the pandemic, from April 1-December 31%, expenditure fell 77% year-on-year.

Catherine Logan, GBTA’s EMEA vice-president, said: “There is no doubt Western Europe is one of the regions to be impacted the most.

“The dependence of many countries and companies on inter-regional activity and economic activity, whilst navigating a complex array of country restrictions and policies from the outset, have made it increasingly difficult to navigate.

“The recent spike in cases across Europe and the growth of mutant strains hindered any recovery in Q4 2020 and continues to hinder progress into this year.

“GBTA has been calling for European governments to work together, and I am delighted the European Commission has agreed a common approach to travel measures, to help drive a co-ordinated approach for a safe return to business travel.”

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