Business Travel on Rise But Variants Cause Concern
While new variants are causing some concern, over half of GBTA members report an expected rise in business travel over the next two months.
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The business travel industry continues to report an overall willingness and optimism about the return to business travel. However, the rise of the Delta variant and other variants has become a cause for uncertainty and increased concern over the past month, according to the latest poll from The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).
This poll is the 22nd in a series that’s tracked the pulse of GBTA’s membership of global travel buyers, suppliers, and other stakeholders on how the business travel industry overall is navigating the return to travel, post pandemic. The poll also included questions about the Delta variant and other variants and their potential impact on business travel.
“Business travel continues to make progress and show small gains on the road to recovery,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO of GBTA. “The Delta variant has introduced a bit of a detour, at least for the near term. With the support of adequate risk mitigation, travelers continue getting back to business during a pandemic that is not going away as quickly as hoped. The industry continues to be resilient, adaptable, and committed to moving forward for safe and responsible business travel for employees and companies around the world.”
Indicators of Business Travel Recovery
- In the August poll, seven in ten (72%) GBTA travel buyers felt their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment (fairly consistent with 77% in July). And non-essential domestic business travel continues to be more frequently allowed. In terms of travel in the past 30 days, 60% reported it is “sometimes” or “usually” allowed.
- Over half of GBTA members and stakeholders reported that they expect business travel will see a significant (8%) or moderate (47%) increase in the September to November 2021 time frame.
- When travel buyers and procurement professionals were asked how company travel spend had changed compared to the prior month, over half (56%) reported their company’s spending increased “somewhat” to “a lot.”
- Poll respondents reported a slight increase in re-opening international and domestic travel versus the month prior. In the current poll, 78% had not opened international travel, compared to 86% in July.
- Despite growing concerns about the Delta variant, only 21% of GBTA stakeholders say their company has introduced new restrictions on non-essential business travel at this point. Almost half (49%) said their company is unlikely to introduce new restrictions, while one in four (25%) are considering introducing new restrictions.
Rise of Delta Detours Recovery Progress in July
- One-third (34%) of supplier and travel management company respondents said they are optimistic about the financial prospects of companies in the business travel sector, but less so compared to a month ago. An additional one in four (38%) said they feel “neither optimistic nor pessimistic,” however, one in four (26%) said they feel pessimistic about the industry’s financial prospects.
- GBTA stakeholders are “concerned” or “very concerned” about the revenue impact the Delta variant poses to companies when it comes to revenue in the business travel sector (85%), employment/re-hiring (79%), and the safety of business travel (78%). In terms of bookings, one in three (31%) reported a decrease, compared to the prior week, versus 3% in the July poll.
- Eight in 10 travel buyers/procurement professionals who work for companies (that have not yet resumed non-essential business travel) reported their company is likely to delay the resumption of non-essential domestic (81%) and international (79%) business travel due to the Delta variant (and other variants).
Vaccination Policies and Employee Safety Protocols
- Almost half of respondents said vaccine requirements to perform key business functions are not typically required. Approximately one in five reported their company requires employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to travel domestically for business (21%), meet customers face-to-face (22%), work in the office (20%), and attend large meetings, conferences, or events (22%).
- Approximately one in four reported they are unsure about their company’s vaccine requirements for travel for key business functions.
- Sixty-two percent in Europe were more likely than those in North America (49%) to report their company will not require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before they can attend large (more than 500 attendees) meetings or events.
- Most respondents (79%) reported their company has procedures in place for contact tracing should an employee become infected with COVID-19. Only one in five (21%) reported their company does not have procedures in place for contact tracing.
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