Corporate travel remains in lockdown with no end to the crisis in sight, the All Party Parliamentary Group for business travel heard on Tuesday.
The group was convened to discuss the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector.
Chaired by Stephen Hammond MP, industry leaders addressed MPs from across the Commons on the pressing issues facing the business travel sector.
Speakers included Business Travel Association chief executve Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, Global Business Travel Association chief executive Suzanne Neufang, Virgin Atlantic government affairs and sustainability director Graeme Elliott and the airline’s UK-US sales director Simon Hawkins.
The meeting came as US Travel Association analysis found that lingering Covid restrictions and a patchwork approach to reopening across America will prevent the business travel segment from recovering until at least 2024. Spending on travel for large, in-person professional meetings and events in the US fell by 76% last year, resulting in a $97 billion loss in spending.
Wratten told MPs: “It is not an exaggeration to say that as a sector, we are still in lockdown. We look enviously at the hospitality sector operating at 50% whilst understanding their frustrations.
“We are not even operating at 10% of pre-pandemic levels with no end to this crisis in sight.”
Neufang endorsed the BTA’s call for international protocols and an extension of furlough in the UK.
She emphasised the importance of the opening of a UK-US corridor under consideration by a taskforce established by prime minister Boris Johnson and US president Joe Biden as part of a new Atlantic Charter ahead of last weekend G7 Summit in Cornwall.
Neufang said: “Globally, the UK has seen the sharpest contraction of business travel spend. The opening of the UK-US transatlantic routes is critical.
“The US is the UK’s largest single trading partner, accounting for 15.7% of UK exports in 2019. Similarly, the UK is one of the US’s most important trading partners. We must work together with the Atlantic Charter’s taskforce to get these routes open quickly and safely.”
They said jointly at the conclusion of the APPG: “UK-US relations are at a critical point. It is only with our two associations joining together that we can keep momentum around the importance of business travel across the globe.
“Today’s APPG was an important step and we thank the MPs present for their dedicated support at such a difficult time.
“We look forward to further government interactions on both sides of the Atlantic that will get us trading and doing business face-to-face once more.”