June 15, 2024

GBTA: Business travel recovery hit by headwinds

Business travel’s full recovery is likely to come in 2026 – not in 2024 as previously expected – according to the latest forecast from the GBTA.

In its 2022 Business Travel Index Outlook – Annual Global Report and Forecast, in partnership with Mastercard, the GBTA says headwinds are slowing global recovery.

Persistent inflation, high energy prices, severe supply chain challenges, labour shortages, emerging sustainability considerations, a significant economic slowdown and lockdowns in China, plus major regional impacts due to the war in Ukraine, were identified as the biggest obstacles.

The GBTA report predicts that global business travel spend will reach $1.39 trillion in 2025, just shy of the $1.4 trillion dollar mark in 2019, and will recovery fully in mid-2026, when it is forecast to reach $1.47 trillion.

This adds an estimated 18 months to the industry’s recovery than was forecast in the previous GBTA Business Travel Index released in November 2021. 

“To understand the headwinds that have been impacting a more accelerated recovery for global business travel, all you have to do is look at the news headlines since the beginning of 2022,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA, releasing the report at the association’s conference in San Diego. 

The report says global business travel spending is expected to gain 33.8% in 2022 but differences are anticipated across the world’s top business travel markets.

North America led the recovery in 2021, driven largely by rapidly returning domestic travel.

Western Europe was the only region to witness spending declines last year as Covid-19 impacted its domestic and regional business travel market.

Both regions are expected to experience the sharpest recoveries with compound annual growth increases of 23.4% (to $363.7 billion) and 16.9% (to $323.9 billion), respectively by 2026. 

Asia Pacific helped lead the industry in terms of recovery of spend in 2021, particularly in China, but this reversed in 2022, as China’s Zero-Covid policy led to wide-scale lockdowns and other countries in the region were slow to open up.

For 2022, a solid increase of 16.5% (or $407.1 billion) in spending is expected in APAC (held back by China at 5.6%, or $286.9 billion), with the region recovering to 66% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022.  

Business travel spending in Latin America grew modestly in 2021 as the vaccination effort got off to a slower start. While there may be challenges in this region over the next few years, 55% growth in spend in Latin America is forecast for this year as business travel recovers to 83% of pre-pandemic totals.