A gradual shift towards a return in business travel following the Covid-19 pandemic has emerged in a new study.

Domestic and essential business travel will likely resume first, especially with industry standardised health and safety standards, according to the Global Business Travel Association.

The association received responses to the research from 1,708 member companies worldwide.

Half (49%) of companies plan to resume domestic travel in the near future – one to three months – and one in five (22%) plan to restart all travel in the same period.

The poll reveals a small uptick in the number of companies allowing some essential travel (44% compared to 37% in previous research released on May 20). 

Almost half (46%) of travel suppliers and TMCs report seeing an increase in their bookings in the past week, while one in four (40%) say their bookings have remained the same. 

Supplier optimism regarding the industry’s path to recovery is also showing positive signs.

Four in ten (40%) say they feel more optimistic than they were last week (compared to 28% who felt the same in the previous GBTA coronavirus poll).

Half feel the same as they did last week, and only one in ten (10%) feeling more pessimistic about the industry’s path to recovery than they felt a week ago.

When asked about the impact of Covid-19 on the industry, most companies feel the business travel industry has experienced the worst in terms of cancelled flights (86%), hotel operations suspension (78%), layoffs/furloughs (52%) and revenue impact (47%).

However, one in three believe the worst is yet to come in terms of layoffs/furloughs (31%) and revenue loss (34%).

Chief executive Scott Solombrino said: “For the first time since the start of the pandemic, supplier members are starting to see some uplift in bookings.

“This positive trend is supported by the slight increase in member companies looking to restart travel in the short term (one-three months).

“To continue this trend there is strong support from GBTA member companies who want consistent health and safety measures for every travel vertical.

“This is critical, and GBTA has been lobbying intensely on behalf of members, we have already seen great collaborative progress in the hotel and airline sectors.”