Business travel has made “significant gains” in returning to pre-pandemic levels over the past few months, with a solid majority of companies now allowing both non-essential domestic and international travel, according to a Global Business Travel Association poll of 520 travel buyers and suppliers done earlier in the month.
86 percent of the companies represented in the poll said they allow at least some unnecessary domestic travel, compared to 73 percent in GBTA’s previous poll in February. International travel permits have had a major recovery, with 74 per cent saying their company allows it, an increase of 26 percentage points from February.
Even with fewer restrictions, 45 percent of respondents said they have canceled or suspended most international business travel, even though it is a 27 percentage point drop from February. About half of those who have canceled or suspended most international travel said they expect it to resume within the next three months. The vast majority also said that their employees are currently willing to travel on business.
“Order levels and travel expenses continue to return, and there are high levels of optimism and employee willingness to travel for business purposes,” GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang said in a statement. “This comes even though the industry faces challenges beyond Covid-19, including rising fuel prices, inflation, supply chain disruptions and war in Ukraine.”
Buyers in the survey said, on average, that travel reservations have recovered to 56 percent of pre-Covid-19 levels, up 22 percentage points from the February survey. On average, they said travel spending should reach 59 percent of 2019 levels by the end of this year and 79 percent by the end of 2023.
The ARC, meanwhile, reported “strong growth in corporate travel” for March, with total ticket sales of accredited travel agents at $ 7.8 billion a month – a 180 percent increase from year to year, a 45 percent increase over February and the first time since February 2020 that the total amount crossed $ 7 billion. The total number of passenger journeys increased 25 percent month over month, with both US and international journeys increasing by about the same amount.
Corporate travel sales were about 60 percent off pre-pandemic levels in early March and grew to 70 percent by the end of the month, according to ARC VP of Global Customers and Travel Products, Steve Solomon.
ARC data also showed a significant increase in air fares, with the average US return fare $ 540 in March, a 41 percent increase from year to year and the highest average monthly fare in nearly seven years. “Despite rising air fares, the number of passenger journeys continued to accelerate as international travel bookings approached pre-pandemic levels,” according to Solomon.
The GBTA survey showed that buyers adjust their budgets for inflation, with 41 per cent saying they increased employees’ travel expenses for air travel, 34 per cent for hotel costs and 33 per cent for car rental.
A majority of respondents in the GBTA survey also support mask demands on aircraft, with 41 percent saying governments should require them. About a third said it should be up to the airline whether they are required, while 20 percent said mask mandates should be banned by the government.