The global business travel industry is recovering faster than expected, according to the latest figures from the GBTA.
The association’s latest Business Travel Outlook, unveiled this week at the 2023 GBTA Convention in Dallas, says spending will surpass the pre-pandemic level of $1.4 trillion in 2024 − and grow to nearly $1.8 trillion by 2027.
In 2022 spending rose 47% to $1.03 trillion, with strong gains continuing and 32% growth expected in 2023.
The outlook says the increases were fuelled by pent-up demand after the pandemic, more favourable global economic conditions in 2022 and 2023 and recession risks that have yet to happen.
Western Europe was the fastest growing region globally in 2022. North America and Latin America saw spending growth accelerate significantly in 2022. Emerging Europe continues to lag in its recovery, challenged by the war in the Ukraine.
“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 Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA.
“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.”
The two biggest drivers in the industry’s stabilisation over the last six months have been the return of in-person meetings and events and the recovery of some international business travel capacity and volumes.
Asia Pacific business travel was the slowest to come back last year due to the delayed reopening of the Chinese economy.
Chinese business travel spending fell 4.6% last year, pushing China down to the number two business travel market in the world for the first time since 2014. However, China is expected to recover back to being the number one market by the end of 2023.
Construction, education, and professional, scientific and technical activities are showing the most resilience.
The report identified several factors that could influence the industry’s longer-term forecast, including an increased focus on sustainability initiatives, widespread adoption of meeting technologies, growth in the remote workforce and the rise of blended travel.
GBTA’s survey of 4,700 business travellers across 22 countries and four regions (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America), found 82% reported that business travel was very (48%) or moderately (34%) worthwhile in achieving their business objectives.
Business travellers say they are more frequently (62%) combining business and personal travel than in 2019, with 42% adding additional leisure days to their business trips and 79% of these travellers staying at the same accommodation for business and vacation portions of their trip.
Two thirds of business travellers say their company provides them with a corporate credit card – of that percentage, about one-third (37%) say their company mandates its use for booking business travel.