The outlook for the return of business travel in general remains optimistic, but the COVID-19 delta variant continues to be a drag on recovery. This according to the September business travel sentiment tracking poll from the Global Business Travel Association.
The survey is the 23rd conducted by the association since the start of the pandemic to measure the progress of business travel’s return.
This month’s survey found companies are allowing non-essential domestic business travel (61 percent) more frequently than non-essential international business travel (34 percent, in line with August poll results.
In each of the past three months, the percentage of travel managers who feel their company’s employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment has seen a steady decline, from 77 percent in July to 68 percent in the September poll.
In addition, concern over the rise of COVID-19 variants continues to delay the resumption of non-essential business travel both domestically and internationally. Of the buyer members and contacts whose companies “never” or “rarely” allow non-essential business travel, eight in 10 report their company is likely to delay the resumption of non-essential domestic (81 percent) and international (80 percent) business travel due to the prevalence of delta and other variants.
Brighter Days Ahead?
Nevertheless, optimism continues to edge up, with more than one in five (22 percent) of the travel supplier and travel management company respondents saying they feel more optimistic compared to a month ago. In the August poll that number was 15 percent.
The percentage who say they feel more pessimistic about the industry’s path to recovery dropped from 39 percent in the August to 27 percent in the latest poll. Almost half (51 percent) say they feel the same.
Consistent with August findings, few respondents say their company has introduced new restrictions on non-essential business travel at this point due to the COVID-19 delta or other variants. Half (51 percent) report their company is unlikely to impose new limits on travel, while less than one in four (23 percent) say their company has introduced any new travel restrictions
“It’s not a surprise that for a second consecutive month, travel industry buyers and suppliers continue to report ongoing caution around variants and travel restrictions as key factors impacting what would otherwise be a more accelerated return to business travel,” said Suzanne Neufang, GBTA’s CEO.
“The recent news regarding the opening up of the US to UK and EU business travelers will hopefully alleviate some of the concerns and give a needed boost to the business travel ecosystem through year-end.”