Global business travel spending is expected to surge in 2022 with full recovery expected in 2024, according to research from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).
GBTA’s recently released Business Travel Index (BTI) Outlook also indicates 2021 is ending on pace with the 2019 pre-pandemic spending levels of $1.4 trillion and a year sooner than previously forecast.
The report provides a detailed analysis of business travel in 2021 with projections for 2022 and beyond, including post-COVID-19 recovery forecasts. Now in its 13th edition, the BTI Outlook is an annual study of business travel spending and growth covering 73 countries across 44 industries.
Global business travel activity has begun its rebound from the sharp downturn brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. After declining 53.8 percent in 2020 to $661 billion, global expenditures are expected to rebound 14 percent in 2021 to $754 billion. This was more slowly than forecast in GBTA’s previous BTI Outlook report issued in February 2020.
Despite recovery setbacks in 2021, a year-over-year growth of 38 percent is expected in 2022 as recovery and pent-up demand kicks into a higher gear, bringing global business travel spending back to over $1 trillion.
GBTA predicts recovery will continue into 2023, with global spending rising 23 percent year-over-year as even more international and group travel comes back online.
By 2024, global business travel is forecast to have made a full recovery, ending the year at $1.48 trillion, just above the 2019 pre-pandemic spending of $1.4 trillion.
In 2025, global business travel growth is predicted to slow to 4.3 percent–just below the 10-year average growth rate of 5.1 per cent coming into 2020–ending the year at a forecasted $1.5 trillion.
The report stressed COVID-related threats and disruptions, supply chain strains, labor shortages, rising inflation, increased costs, and lagging recovery in Asian markets could impact these recovery targets. Additional mitigating issues include a broad adoption of remote working models, long-term cuts or elimination of business trips and travel volume, and the increased focus on sustainability practices and policies for business travel.
“Of any year we’ve issued the BTI Outlook forecast, this one was the most anticipated, and it’s no surprise,” said Suzanne Neufang, GBTA CEO. “The business travel industry recognizes there are factors, related to COVID-19 and beyond, that could impact the road ahead over the coming years. However, there is optimism overall as the industry, companies, and travelers worldwide lean into recovery and the much-needed return to business travel.”
In a poll of 40 CFOs across North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe, 70 percent felt in 2022 the overall economy in their country would be better or much better than in 2021.
About half (52 percent) of respondents reported they expect their company’s business travel spending to reach 2019 levels in 2022.
When asked about the importance of business travel for their company, CFOs felt the top return-on-investment reasons for business travel are sales and business development (68 percent), internal business planning and strategy (50 percent), client account management (48 percent), and employee training and development (48 percent).
Among 400 global business travelers polled, 86 percent report they need travel to accomplish their business goals. A majority (81 percent) believe their volume of domestic business travel in 2022 will be greater than or on par with what it was prior to the pandemic. More than half (54 percent) miss traveling and hope to travel more often in the future. However, 43 percent wouldn’t mind traveling less in the future, whether they indicated they miss it or not. Four in five (81 percent) of business travelers say their company requires vaccines for travel and in-person meetings.