ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The global business travel industry continues its progress toward full recovery to 2019 pre-pandemic spending levels of USD $1.4 trillion, but the time frame for a full recovery remains elusive.
In November 2021 the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Business Travel Index Outlook — Annual Global Report and Forecast (BTI) predicted a surge in global business travel spending in 2022, reaching full recovery to the $1.4 trillion pre-pandemic mark by 2024. The 2022 BTI, released in August, pushes the anticipated full recovery date into 2025, possibly 2026.
Inflation is the main stumbling block for a full recovery. In the meetings and events industry, for instance, GBTA data reveals that the cost-per-attendee for meetings and events in 2022 is expected to be around 25% higher than in 2019, and it’s forecast to rise a further 7% in 2023. “To understand the headwinds that have been impacting a more accelerated recovery for global business travel, all you have to do is look at the news headlines since the beginning of 2022. The factors impacting many industries around the world are also anticipated to impact global business travel recovery into 2025. The forecasted result is we’ll get close, but we won’t reach and exceed 2019’s pre-pandemic levels until 2026,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA.
The new BTI prediction for recovery is that global business travel will almost reach pre-pandemic levels in 2025, reaching $1.39 trillion. Global spending is not expected to make it fully back to the $1.4 trillion dollar mark until mid-2026, when it is forecast to reach $1.47 trillion dollars.
In spite of the rise in costs to hold events the demand for face-to-face meetings is growing.
In July 2022, GBTA monthly Business Travel Recovery Poll surveyed over 400 frequent business travelers and nearly four dozen executive travel budget decision makers across four global regions. A significant majority of business travelers (85%) said they definitely need to travel to accomplish their business goals. Over three-fourths said they expect to travel for work more or much more in 2023 than they did in 2022.
Senior global corporate finance professionals also voiced confidence with 84% predicting their travel spending would somewhat or significantly increase in 2023 compared to 2022.
One recently held trade show, the Affordable Shopping Destination (ASD) Market Week, owned by Emerald Holding, Inc., announced strong growth by several measures following the conclusion of its August 2022 event in Las Vegas. ASD experienced increases in both exhibiting companies and revenue growth compared to the August 2021 show, with overall revenue increasing by 22% and exhibiting companies by 19%. In addition, nearly 30,000 attendees attended the August 2022 edition of ASD Market Week and conducted business with more than 1,600 manufacturers, including hundreds of new vendors exhibiting for the first time.
“We are very encouraged by what we experienced at last month’s ASD Market Week, and our feedback from both buyers and suppliers at the show has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Karalynn Sprouse, Emerald’s Executive Vice President. “Post pandemic, we continue to see pent-up demand for in-person B2B commerce, and these growth numbers confirm this trend is strengthening.”
But growth is coming with challenges. Research released in September from GBTA and HRS, the leading global corporate travel and payment technology platform, focusing on business travel’s recovery shows that 42 percent of travel managers say technology is their top pain point. According to the study, “A New Order: Business Travel, Corporate Procurement and Workspaces in a Post-Pandemic World, ” more than half of respondents (54%) say the acceleration of business travel’s return has occurred “more quickly” or “much more quickly” than they expected at the beginning of the year.
Nearly four in five (77%) say that they spend “more time” or “much more time” troubleshooting traveler issues, and more than half (52%) reporting taking “more time” or “much more time” analyzing data.
“It’s great to see that business travel is coming back. The vast majority of suppliers and travel management companies continue reporting booking increases each month. But as outlined by the survey, the evolution we’ve seen since the pandemic is driving tremendous change across the business travel ecosystem,” said GBTA’s Neufang. “Travel management teams now have a broader range of issues to address beyond negotiating supplier deals. The C-suite is more likely to promote the digitizing of more processes, implementation of sustainability initiatives and steps to enhance satisfaction and security. Leaders are adjusting and taking steps to manage programs accordingly.”