Will Business Travel Return After Covid-19?

by Emma Drew
Image of a business man and business woman carrying suitcases, walking through an airport terminal about to board a flight

As the government rolls out its roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions and travel bans start to lift, can we expect to see a return of business travel?

A poll carried out by The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found that 74% of employees expressed they would be willing to travel for business again when restrictions lift, with only 10% of employees reporting to feeling unsure whether to travel for businesses purposes. 78% of respondents felt the latest plans for issuing of Covid-19 Travel Certificates would be effective enough to restart international business travel. Those in favour of  covid-19 travel certificates included 90% respondents from the UK, 89% from Canada and 86% from Europe and 73% from the US.

The European Union and the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) are in agreement for the issuing of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, following approval from the European Parliament. After the legislation is passed, the regulations will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and will come into effect from July 1st 2021. The EU hopes that the Covid Travel Certificate will facilitate the safe and free movement of Europeans by proving that the holder has either taken the vaccine against the virus, has recovered recently from it, or has tested negative before travelling to their desired destination.

Covid 19 Passport

Covid 19 Passport

A survey by Microsoft found that more than 70% of global employees want to continue to have the option of working remotely but more than 65% are craving in-person time with their teams. Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said “the outlook for business travel is only getting brighter the longer the pandemic drags on.”

After a year of being cooped up and confined to our homes, and tons of virtual conversations, more and more people will be gaining a new appreciation for the value of in-person interaction and feeling the need to get out there and meet new clients. United Airlines Holdings Inc.’s, CEO Scott Kirby, commented: “Business travel is about relationships; it is not about transactions,” and you can’t build relationships through video-conferencing application.” He also added that business travel is the most lucrative market for airlines because corporate fliers tend to buy tickets at the last minute and at high prices.

In a recent interview, a spokesperson for Hilton Hotel, said that while business travel has been slow, corporate bookings have started to increase. Suzanne Neufang, Chief Executive at (GBTA) said: “It’s reassuring to see so much momentum for a return to business travel, with more optimism, willingness to travel and an increase in bookings. ”

In the recent BTI Outlook Report (2022) The Global Business Travel Association predicts a 21% increase in business travel spending. Most of this gain is expected to come at the end of 2021 as vaccinations increase globally and consumer confidence returns. The report also forecasts further acceleration in international business travel in 2022, seeing more corporate events and face-to-face group meetings.

A business man and a business woman wait in an airport lounge ready to board a flight

A business man and a business woman wait in an airport lounge ready to board a flight

The return of business travel could also present more opportunities for boutique airlines, which are often smaller aircraft, operating a limited capacity of passengers. Boutique Airlines offer a more personalised onboard experience, which make them an ideal choice for business travellers. La Compagnie offers exclusive transatlantic routes that are business-class only flights between France and the US, flying from Paris Orly and to New York. The boutique airline remains hopeful that when the US reopens to European travellers, bookings will start to increase.

The biggest challenge for many companies around the world posing the greatest barrier to international travel continues to be current government restrictions. The second biggest barrier is uncertainty around reviewing company policies. One in six companies said they would allow only fully vaccinated employees to resume non-essential trips.

The overall consensus felt by most airlines is that business travel may never return to the same level it was pre-pandemic, especially as more people are continuing to carry on working from home. Therefore, it remains to be to seen how much business travel will increase in 2021 and beyond. Yet, despite the current challenges, the figures from the poll are very encouraging and optimistic that business travel will return as the industry steadily recovers from the impact of the pandemic.

Do you think business travel will return after covid-19? Let us know in the comments below. 

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