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Mid-2021 Rebound Possible, Say a Majority of Travel Managers

Effective vaccines key to the return of business travel in 2nd or 3rd quarter, GBTA poll finds

The majority of corporate travel managers are optimistic that business travel will begin to rebound in mid- to late 2021. According to the latest member poll from the Global Business Travel Association, nearly two-thirds (59 percent) say the availability of effective vaccines is a “significant factor” in their company’s decision to resume business travel, while one in four (23 percent) say it is a “moderate” factor.

Only 14 percent say they are unsure of the impact the vaccine will have on the resumption of business travel. This survey is in marked contrast to earlier GBTA polls, which saw deep cuts to business travel and only muted optimism about when it might return.

The results mirror similar findings in surveys of the general traveling public regarding the importance of vaccines to a return to travel.

Late last week, the Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization to the Moderna vaccine, the second EUA in the US for a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Vaccinations using the Moderna vaccine had already begun as of Monday, and together with the previously authorized Pfizer vaccine, nearly 8 million doses will be distributed across the country this week, according to Reuters. 

Although US health officials have set an ambitious goal of starting 20 million Americans on their first shot of the two-dose vaccine regimen before the end of the year, that target could slip into the first week of January, according to General Gustave Perna, COO of the Operation Warp Speed program.

Ramping up vaccine production to make shots available to every American who wants one is likely to take well into the second quarter of 2021, according to health officials.

The GBTA poll found three out of four travel managers expect in-person meetings to return in the second or third quarter of 2021, and 89 percent say employees will take part in an in-person meeting or event with attendees outside their company by the third quarter.

Dave Hilfman, GBTA’s interim executive director, said the latest poll reveal a number of positive signs for the business travel industry in 2021, especially toward the middle of the year.

As vaccine programs gain momentum and provided they show a corresponding drop in positive COVID-19 test results, Hilfman said, “this survey suggests something of a return to personal connections and in-person meetings and events in the business space.”