Global business travel spending slumped by over a half to $694 billion during a coronavirus-hit 2020, a figure buoyed by what was a relatively strong first quarter before lockdowns had an impact.
A report from the Global Business Travel Association released this week says it expects there to be a 21% increase in business travel expenditure during 2021.
Despite some commentators and reports suggesting that business travel will never return to pre-pandemic levels, due to the emergence of video meetings and companies recognizing that some cost savings can be made from axing unnecessary travel, a “full recovery” is being forecast by the GBTA within four years.
The GBTA report says that the April to December period saw spend crash to unprecedented levels year-over-year, especially in North America (79%) and Western Europe (77%).
Even with the positive first three months of 2020, North America and Western Europe finished the year down 60% and 58%, respectively.
The equivalent to 400 million full-time jobs in hotels, airlines, ground transportation, restaurants and other service providers was lost in terms of global work hours during 2020.
The GBTA expects a further acceleration in spend during 2022 but the growth will slow during 2023 before hitting a figure of around $1.4 trillion in 2024.
Dave Hilfman, interim executive director of GBTA, says: “The pandemic has been devestaing for business travel and it’s clear our industry will take some time to recover given the challenges we’re facing on multiple fronts.
“Economic recovery is already underway, although very uneven across countries and sectors. The continued rollout of the vaccine will be central to recovery globally, as will decisions the new Biden Administration makes regarding global trade and border and quarantine policies. GBTA will continue to work on restoring consumer confidence so travel can come back safely.”