Following the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, leisure travel rebounded more swiftly compared to business travel.
As remote work became the standard and many companies showed reluctance to send their employees on non-essential trips, business-related travel declined significantly in 2020 and 2021. The resurgence of the business travel sector began in 2022, but encountered a fresh obstacle. In the midst of an economic downturn, many companies opted for cost-cutting measures, leading to a renewed decline in travel activity.
According to a recent report from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), business travel will actually reach record levels in 2024. That’s two years earlier than the association had initially predicted. The prediction was made in GBTA’s latest Business Travel Index Outlook report, released this week at the group’s annual convention.
The report highlights two specific findings: first, global business travel expenditures surged by 47 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year, surpassing $1 trillion; second, projections indicate a further 32 percent growth in spending within this sector for 2023.
Business travel spending is now forecast to exceed a staggering $1.4 trillion in 2024 after “rebounded at a more accelerated rate than expected just a year ago.” And according to BTN—Business Travel News, that amount will rise to nearly $1.8 trillion by 2027.
These numbers show a significant change from the GBTA report from the previous year. At that time, the group noted that supply chain issues and inflation were preventing a real recovery in the business travel industry, and it was expected that it would take until 2026 to see any tangible improvement.
According to the organization’s research, the significant upswing in business travel is the result of pent-up demand, improved global economic conditions and fading recession fears.
“The headwinds that were anticipated to impact the rebound of global business travel over the past year didn’t materialize and that is good news,” said GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang. “This latest forecast now indicates an accelerated return to pre-pandemic spending levels sooner than anticipated as well as growth ahead in the coming years. Business travel spending is a key indicator, but how travel volumes will continue to rebound is yet to be seen.”
Still, things might not always go smoothly in the future. There are still issues that could hinder future progress. These include the increasing use of virtual meeting platforms and the emphasis on sustainability on a global scale. According to Neufang, demand for business travel will nevertheless be influenced by remote work.
Other notable findings from the report include: Air travel accounted for $183 billion (18 percent) of the total business travel spending for 2022; lodging spending reached $395 billion (38 percent); food and beverage costs tallied up to $191 billion (19 percent); ground transportation accounted for $138 billion (13 percent); and miscellaneous travel expenditures summed up to $121 billion.