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COVID-19: Travel and Meeting Industry Losses Could Reach $233 Billion by Summer

A survey of more than 400 companies shows that the impact of government travel restrictions and fears on the part of exhibitors and event attendees is seriously affecting the industry, and the uncertainty continues.

Key findings from a just-released Global Business Travel Association poll show that potential losses from event and travel cancelations could amount to $46.6 billion a month. The responses, from travel managers, procurement and sourcing professionals, suppliers, and others both in the U.S. and worldwide, indicate that if cancelations continue, global spend on business travel and events could be down by as much as 37 percent in 2020. The poll shows that 65 percent of companies have canceled at least “a few” of their planned meetings and events due to the virus, and 18 percent have canceled “many.”

Predictably, the largest effect from the COVID-19 virus is an almost complete cancelation of travel to China and 73 percent of respondents canceling or postponing travel and events in Hong Kong. Overall, trips to Asia-Pacific countries are down by almost half, but only 23 percent of companies reported canceling business trips and events in Europe.

However, the poll showed that meeting and travel professionals are relatively optimistic about how long the impact of the virus will last, while more than half said they were unsure, a third of respondents thought bookings and travel would return to normal after three months and only one percent thought the impact would last for a year. Some evidence of this optimism can be found in shows such as the Food & Hotel Asia-Hotel Restaurant and Café Expo, which was scheduled to take place in Singapore in March but has been moved to July.

RELATED: Registration Has Opened for Risk360/D.C., the Meeting and Event Planners Risk Management Conference.

Despite the reassurance of institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it appears that the event and travel industries are taking the view that it is better to be safe than sorry. In a statement, GBTA’s Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director Scott Solombrino, said, “Our industry’s first priority is the health and safety of the business traveler, and our members are being appropriately cautious and pro-active in their approach to the situation.” That includes more than half of those surveyed saying that their company has modified travel safety and security policies because of the infection, an action that will make the industry safer in the future.

Click here to read the full Coronavirus Poll February 25, 2020 and here for MeetingsNet’s Survey: Coronavirus Impact on Independent Planning Companies.

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