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Domestic business travel returns but international trips stalled

A domestic business travel recovery is underway but plans to resume international corporate travel remain stalled, according to the latest poll of Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) members.

Two-fifths of GBTA poll respondents (40%) said their company had resumed non-essential business travel in the country where they are based by early June, up from 34% in May.

An additional 8% had finalised a date to resume and 25% were working to finalise a date. The remaining one in four (24%) were “waiting to see” or “not sure”.

However, GBTA reported the outlook for international business travel “remains murky” despite travel buyers reporting 77% of employees are willing to travel – 12 percentage points higher than in May.

Three out of five respondents (62%) said their company was still waiting to see what happens or were unsure about cross-border travel.

Only one in 10 respondents (12%) said their company had already resumed international travel. Just 5% had decided on a date to resume and 21% were working on a date.

Yet a majority of buyers (60%) did report an increase in business travel spending month on month – 68% in the US and 54% in Europe.

GBTA noted respondents expect sales and ‘blue-collar’ service trips to lead the corporate travel recovery. More than half expect the number of these trips to return to pre-pandemic levels within a year.

The return of other types of trips is expected to take longer and 19% don’t expect internal trips to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

GBTA chief executive Suzanne Neufang said: “Many companies are now making plans to resume business travel, especially in the US and Europe.

However, she noted: “It will take some time for companies to allow as many trips or even the same kind of travel as before the pandemic.”

More than half the supplier and travel management company (TMC) respondents (54%) were optimistic about their company’s financial prospects, up seven percentage points since May.

Two in five (43%) said their company had reopened offices, 24% had decided on a date to reopen and 21% were finalising a date.

However, flexible work policies are expected to remain. Eight in ten respondents (79%) said they expect to have more flexibility to work from home than prior to the pandemic. Two-thirds (65%) did not expect this to affect business travel.

GBTA polled 640 members on June 7-11.

 

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