ALEXANDRIA, Va. ― Business-travel recovery in 2021 proceeded at a slower, more cautionary pace than expected from a year ago. However, global business-travel spending is expected to surge in 2022, with full recovery expected in 2024 ― ending the year on pace with the 2019 pre-pandemic spend of $1.4 trillion, and a year sooner than previously forecast.
This is according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s largest business-travel association, which recently released the results of its latest business travel index ― the BTI Outlook.
The report provides a detailed analysis of business travel in 2021 with projections for 2022 and beyond, including post-COVID-19 recovery forecasts. Now in its 13th edition, the BTI Outlook is an exhaustive annual study of business-travel spending and growth covering 73 countries across 44 industries. New first-time additions this year include survey insights from global senior financial executives as well as business travelers.
Forecasts and analysis highlights from the latest BTI Outlook (in U.S. dollars) include:
• Global business-travel activity has begun its rebound from the sharp downturn brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. After declining 53.8 per cent in 2020 to $661 billion, global expenditures are expected to have rebounded 14 per cent in 2021 to $754 billion. This was more slowly than forecast in GBTA’s previous BTI Outlook report issued in February of this year.
• Despite recovery setbacks in 2021, a year-over-year surge of 38 per cent is expected in 2022 as recovery and pent-up demand kicks into a higher gear, bringing global business-travel spending back to more than $1 trillion. Recovery will continue into 2023, with global spending rising 23 per cent year-over-year as even more international and group travel comes back online. By 2024, global business travel is forecast to have made a full recovery, ending the year at $1.48 trillion or just above the 2019 pre-pandemic spend of $1.4 trillion.
• In 2025, global business-travel growth is forecast to slow to 4.3 per cent ― just below the 10-year average growth rate of 5.1 per cent coming into 2020 ― ending the year at a forecasted $1.5 trillion.
However, persistent COVID-19-related threats and disruptions, supply-chain strains, labour shortages, rising inflation, increased costs and lagging recovery in Asian markets are just a few of the risks for continued on-target recovery. Additionally, yet to be determined are the potential impacts of emerging factors including broad adoption of remote working models, long-term cuts or elimination of business trips and travel volume, and the increased focus on sustainability practices and policies for business travel.
“Of any year we’ve issued the BTI Outlook forecast, this one was the most anticipated and it’s no surprise,” says Suzanne Neufang, CEO for GBTA. “The business-travel industry recognizes there are factors, related to COVID-19 and beyond, that could impact the road ahead over the coming years. However, there is optimism overall as the industry, companies and travellers worldwide lean into recovery and the much-needed return to business travel.”