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Travel Managers Predict Business Travel’s Return Before Fall

GBTA poll also finds growing confidence for employees to return to the office by the third quarter of 2021

In the latest Global Business Travel Association survey of corporate travel managers, nearly half (48 percent) say non-critical business travel either already has or is likely to return by the end of third quarter of 2021.

Of the 733 GBTA members polled, 6 percent say their companies have already resumed non-business critical travel, and another 13 percent expect employees to resume non-critical business travel in the next one to four months. Almost a third (29 percent) expect non-business critical travel to resume in 5 to 8 months.

One in five (20 percent) expect the return of non-critical business travel to take longer – 9 months or more, while another 20 percent say their companies have not yet made a decision on when to allow employees to return to the road, and an additional one in ten (11 percent) are unsure.

The results are in line with a number of other recent surveys, which are also pointing toward positive signs of a recovery in business travel by the third quarter.

This is GBTA’s 15th coronavirus poll which the organization has been conducting to measure the impact of the pandemic on business travel.

In other findings, more than half of respondents expect most of their employees will return to the office by Q3, in line with a return to non-essential business travel and a growth in traveler confidence.

However there is still a large degree of uncertainty among corporate travel managers on the questions of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations as requirements for travel. When asked if their companies plan to mandate that employees certify that they have tested negative for the virus prior to departure, over half (53 percent) say they are not sure if that will happen. Only 9 percent already require it, and another 8 percent say they plan to.

On the question of certifying that the travel employee has received a coronavirus vaccine, nearly two-thirds of companies (65 percent) say they are not sure whether that will be a requirement for travel.

Requiring traveling employees to be vaccinated remains an area of uncertainty. However for nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of survey respondents, knowing that the travel industry workers – such as flight attendants, pilots and hotel employees – have received their shots would make them feel ‘somewhat’ or ‘a great deal’ more comfortable with having their travelers back on the road.

“While we continue to face challenges for our industry, there is light at the end of the tunnel and projections for a return to some normality remain positive for Q3,” said Dave Hilfman, interim executive director of GBTA. “The global rollout of vaccination programs continues to be a key driver in restoring traveler confidence, but uncertainty remains around traveler requirements for a return to business travel, whether this be pre-testing, testing on arrival or proof of vaccine.”