UK business travel will not completely recover to pre-pandemic levels next year, the sector’s trade body disclosed today.
The Business Travel Association predicts corporate trips returning to 80%-85% of Covid levels in 2024.
Urging the government to “recognise the value of business travel”, the trade body warns of economic growth being stunted further, together with additional environmental pressures.
Unveiling a manifesto ahead of the King’s Speech on November 7, the BTA outlines a strategic pathway to tackle industry issues and support the UK economy.
It argues that traveller trust is being challenged by outdated and abandoned infrastructure such as the HS2 project, connectivity issues, poor sustainability commitments, and a depleting workforce.
To confront this, the BTA’s manifesto calls for trade agreements to include new work visas and permits, an industry standard for carbon off-setting, and a strategic multi-modal transport strategy.
Key issues to address in 2024 are identified as filling the skills gap, achieving net zero emissions and investment in transport networks.
The BTA also calls for an industry standard of carbon offsetting to tackle the “environmental burden” of travel.
This is needed to reduce ‘greenwashing’ by ensuring all businesses are held to the same level of accountability. Greater collaboration is needed between the government and industry sectors to guarantee a suitable accreditation.
A new UK global business travel fund is required to ensure that international travel is efficient.
As part of this, the BTA calls for more financial clarity following the UK’s departure from the European Union.
The fund would encourage SMEs to travel to new trading partners and unlock new business deals across the world.
The BTA highlights that demand for business trips has not dampened post-pandemic, with the sector contributing £27.7 billion a year to the UK economy, supporting more than 280,000 jobs.
The organisation claims investment in business travel is vital against a backdrop of KPMG highlighting that the UK’s GDP growth is slowing to 0.4% in 2023 to an estimated 0.3% in 2024.
BTA chef executive Clive Wratten said: “Business travellers are the drivers of international trade. As such, our industry should be recognised for its crucial role in the UK economy, and more must be done to improve the wider travel ecosystem.
“Constant unruly disruptions are pushing commuters to their cars as they lose faith in public transport networks.
“Delays to work trips due to travel incompetence are not only an inconvenience but carry significant economic and environmental costs for the UK.”
Wratten added: “There is no common standard for businesses operating in the industry. This must change.
“We demand that the government recognise the value of business travel and work together with the industry to ensure we collectively champion the unique needs of business travellers.”