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Business Travel Not Expected to Fully Recover Until 2026

The new global business-travel forecast from GBTA revises last year’s expectations for a return to pre-pandemic travel spending by 2024. Here are the obstacles in the way.

While the art and science of meeting design, management, and execution diverges from the focus of business-travel management professionals, the two worlds go hand in glove. For many organizations, corporate spending on business travel is crucial to getting event registrants through the door. And so, meeting managers may find gloomy reading in the 2022 GBTA Business Travel Index Outlook–Annual Global Report and Forecast.

The study, released this week at the Global Business Travel Association Convention taking place in San Diego, pushes the forecast for full business-travel recovery into 2026 instead of 2024 as previously forecast.

“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,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA. “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.

GBTA’s previous BTI survey, released in November 2021, predicted a surge in global business-travel spending in 2022, reaching full recovery by 2024. However, the new report cites “deteriorating economic conditions and shifting secular trends in 2022” hampering those expected gains. The biggest obstacles to a faster recovery for business travel are “persistent inflation, high energy prices, severe supply-chain challenges and labor shortages, a significant economic slowdown and lockdowns in China, and major regional impacts due to the war in Ukraine as well as emerging sustainability considerations,” according to the report

On a positive note, North America and Western Europe are expected to experience the sharpest recoveries in the years ahead.

For this 14th annual edition of the study, GBTA asked questions of more than 400 frequent business travelers and nearly four dozen executive travel-budget decision makers across four global regions about their business travel expectations. Here’s a snapshot of sentiments from July
• More than three-fourths of business travelers expect to travel for work more or much more in 2023 than in 2022.
• Eighty-four percent of senior global corporate-finance professionals are confident that travel spending would somewhat or significantly increase in 2023 compared to 2022.
• While 86 percent of senior global financial executives say inflation/rising prices will impact travel volumes, 73 percent of business travelers feel the same.
• Three out of four global financial executives are concerned a possible recession will impact travel, while that issue worries 69 percent of business travelers.

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