Most Global Business Travel Association companies expect staff to return to in-person events next year despite uncertainty over a second wave of Covid-19.

Almost half (45%) expect attendance to resume in the first half of 2021 with an additional 25% expecting a return to in-person events in the second six months.

While most do not expect their company to host in-person meetings, events or conferences in 2020, there is growing optimism for 2021, with 37% expecting to host some or many meetings or events in the first quarter, rising to 61% by the second quarter of the year.

But an average of one in four members of the US association still remain unsure, echoing a general “wait and see” approach due to current uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Only 20% of members expect a return to office this year, according to the poll.

One in three (35%) plan to return in the first half of next year including 28% who expect to return in the first quarter, but 21% are still undecided.

Just 16% of member companies have already returned to the office.

Half (52%) say an effective vaccine for Covid-19 would have the most influence on the planning process for a return to the office and in-person events.

Just under a quarter of respondents (24%) would like to see decreased Covid-19 transmission rates worldwide before resuming meetings.

Almost half (48%) of companies say their senior managers value a managed travel programme “much more” or “more” than they did before Covid-19.

This sentiment is consistent with key corporate stakeholders including human resources or risk management, with half (51%) of member companies reporting that these individuals value the managed travel programme “much more” or “more” than before the pandemic.

The association’s interim executive director Dave Hilfman said: “While there is no doubt the current global uncertainty around a second wave is delaying the return to business travel, the outlook for 2021 is looking more positive with companies planning a return to face-to-face meetings and events.

“It is encouraging to see businesses planning their return to office in a careful and safe way.”