Business travel spending in Europe is returning to pre-Covid levels more slowly than the recovery worldwide.
Furthermore, among the key European countries, the UK recovery is taking the longest.
According to the latest GBTA Business Travel Index Outlook, business travel spend in Europe will reach just shy of $415 billion in 2025, higher than pre-pandemic spending of $392 billion in 2019, and will then climb to $450 billion in 2027.
This is a year behind the global recovery, where business travel spend is expected to top pre-Covid levels of $1.4 trillion in 2024, and rise to nearly $1.8 trillion by 2027.
The outlook, unveiled this week at the GBTA VDR Europe Conference in Hamburg, says business travel spend in Europe recovered to 69% of pre-Covid levels by the end of 2022 and is expected to rise to 90% by the end of 2023.
But due to the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, there is a big gap between the recovery in Western Europe, where spend is forecast to reach 94% by the end of 2023, and emerging Europe, where the estimated figure is just 67%
According to the GBTA figures, the UK is taking the longest to recovery among the key European markets. UK business travel spend ended 2022 at 57% of 2019 levels, while Germany reached 65% and Italy 68%.
France at 75%, Spain at 86%, Netherlands at 87% and the Nordic region at 74% showed stronger rebounds.
By the end of this year, the UK spend is expected to reach 82% of 2019 levels, Germany 89% and Italy 97%.
France is estimated to rise to 96% of pre-Covid spend, Spain will surpass it at 103% and the Netherlands will rise to 107%.
Six countries – Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands –made up three-quarters of the region’s expenditures in 2022.
The European growth is being fuelled by the return of in-person meetings and events and the recovery of international business travel capacity and volumes.
But the outlook pointed to several factors that could influence the industry’s longer-term forecast in Europe.
It said these included geo-political factors, persistent economic challenges, an increased focus on sustainability, widespread adoption of meeting technologies, growth in the remote workforce and the rise of blended travel, describing these as “potential game changers in the future of business travel”.
Catherine Logan, GBTA Regional Senior Vice President, EMEA and APAC, said business travel spend in Europe continues to grow at a steady rate but organisations are adjusting to changes, including the hybrid work environment and an even sharper focus on sustainability.
“As firms and employees appreciate the benefit of in-person connections, we are seeing more travel related to internal meetings and training purposes,” she said.
“Additionally, sustainable travel options continue to be a key driver and multi-modal trips now account for almost a third of recent business trips. As a region, Europe is leading the way in offering alternative, more sustainable solutions.”