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New GBTA Survey Shows Grim Impact of COVID-19 on Business Travel Industry

Business travel to Asia has been hit the hardest, with some 75 percent of companies reporting they have canceled or suspended business trips to this  region

The coronavirus (COVID-19) wreak havoc on the global business travel industry, with companies canceling meetings and instituting blanket business travel cancellations, according to the latest research conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). Companies hold annual meetings and events throughout the world, with the primary destinations being North America, Europe, China, and the Asian Pacific region. To understand the coronavirus’s effects on business travel, GBTA conducted a lightning poll of the membership base March 4-6 and received responses from more than 1,000 member companies throughout the world.  

Among the poll’s key findings are:

• Around the globe, more companies are canceling or suspending business travel due to the coronavirus. Business travel to Asia has been impacted the hardest, with at least three of every four companies reporting they have canceled or suspended “all” or “most” business trips to China (95 percent), Hong Kong (87 percent), Taiwan (79 percent) and other Asia-Pacific countries (e.g., Japan, South Korea and Malaysia; 77 percent). Canceled and/or suspended business travel to Asia has notably increased since GBTA’s previous poll conducted in late February. Over the course of ten days, canceled and/or suspended business travel to Hong Kong increased by 19 percent, to Taiwan by 46 percent, and to the rest of the Asian Pacific countries by 71 percent.

• Cancellations and suspensions of business travel to regions other than Asia have increased exponentially as well. Half (51 percent) of GBTA members report their company has canceled or suspended “all” or “most” business travel to Europe – up from 8 percent ten days ago. Almost one in five (18 percent) companies has canceled or suspended “all” or “most” travel to North America – up from 2 percent ten days earlier. Nearly one-third (30 percent) of companies have suspended or canceled “all” or “most” business travel to Latin America – up from 3 percent as of ten days ago. In addition, almost half (47 percent) of companies have canceled or suspended business travel to the Middle East, compared to only 8 percent who reported doing so in GBTA’s previous poll.

• Many companies have instituted blanket business travel cancellations or suspensions due to the coronavirus. More than four in ten (41 percent) GBTA member companies report their company has canceled or suspended all international travel, regardless of region. This is a significant increase from GBTA’s previous poll, when only seven percent of companies reported doing so. The trend is similar when looking at company actions concerning domestic travel. Thirteen percent of GBTA member companies report their company has canceled or suspended all domestic travel, compared to only two percent in the last poll.

• GBTA member companies have canceled on average 43 percent of business trips (all global regions) previously booked for March 2020 due to the coronavirus.

• GBTA member companies report they are canceling or postponing scheduled meetings, events, and conferences as opposed to moving the event to a new venue. Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) report their company has canceled at least a “few” meetings, events, or conferences, with 30 percent canceling “many” such events. GBTA members are also postponing meetings, events, and conferences due to the coronavirus, with 74 percent reporting they have postponed at least a “few,” 26 percent having postponed “many,” and 27 percent having postponed “some.” Fewer GBTA member companies (29 percent) report they have moved meetings, events, and conferences.

• GBTA member companies, particularly business travel suppliers such as airlines and hotels, are feeling a direct revenue impact due to the coronavirus. Nearly six in ten (59 percent) supplier members report that the Coronavirus has made a “significant” impact on their company’s revenue, and another 27 percent report a “moderate” impact to date.

• More GBTA member companies are altering their travel policies due to the coronavirus. Over half (55 percent) report their company has instituted new trip approval procedures, an increase from the 43 percent who previously reported doing so. In addition, 62 percent of companies have modified their travel safety and security policies in response to coronavirus. (Only 51 percent had done so as of the time of the previous poll.)

“Coronavirus is significantly impacting the business travel industry’s bottom line. As the virus continues to spread across the world, business travel is slowing at an alarming rate. The impact to the business travel industry – and to the broader economy – cannot be underestimated,” said Scott Solombrino, COO and Executive Director of the Global Business Travel Association. “Traveler safety remains the industry’s primary concern, and we are continuing to monitor conditions and respond appropriately. We encourage our member companies to heed the advice from all global health officials such as the CDC and the WHO when thinking about their travel plans.  I am confident in our efforts to ensure the health and safety of all travelers and know that we will emerge from this downturn with an even stronger industry.”