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Business travel recovery ‘not expected until mid to late 2021’

Most business travel firms believe the industry will begin to rebound from the impact of Covid-19 in mid to late 2021.

The availability of vaccines against the virus is “top of mind” for many business travel professionals, according to the latest poll by the Global Business Travel Association.

Three in five (59%) of GBTA members say vaccine availability is a ‘significant’ factor in their company’s decision to resume business travel.

Three out of four respondents expect employees to attend in-person meetings or events in the second or third quarter of next year, with 89% set to attend a meeting or event with attendees outside their company by the third quarter.

As attendance at in-person events increase throughout the year, involvement in at hybrid meetings is expected to decline as 2021 unfolds, according to the GBTA.

The majority (90%) say 2021 business travel spend will be lower compared to 2019 and only 5% expect 2021 travel spend to be the same as 2019.

Broken down by region, 98% of buyers and procurement professionals based in Europe and 90% in North America expect 2021 business travel spend to be lower than it was in 2019.

When asked where travel savings would be made, the areas identified include internal meetings, conferences and trade shows, countered by a rise in percentage spend on sales meetings and service trips with current and prospective customers.

Interim executive director of the US-based organisation Dave Hilfman said: “What we’re seeing in this latest poll is a number of reasons for the business travel industry to be optimistic about 2021, especially toward the middle of the year.

“As the vaccine rollout gains momentum and if we see a corresponding drop in positive Covid-19 test results, this survey suggests something of a return to personal connections and in-person meetings and events in the business space.”

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