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Second wave brings uncertainty to business travel recovery

The majority of Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) companies expect their employees to return to in-person events in 2021. Almost half (45%) expect attendance to resume in the first half of the year, according to the latest poll conducted between September 15-19, 2020, by GBTA, with an additional 25% expecting a return to in-person events in the second half of 2021.

Whilst most do not expect their company to host in-person meetings, events or conferences in 2020, there is growing optimism for 2021, with 37% expecting to host some or many meetings or events in Q1, rising to 61% by Q2. An average of one in four GBTA members still remain unsure, echoing the general “wait and see” approach caused by the current uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Expectations on company plans to return to office vary with 1 in 5 (20%) of GBTA companies reporting a return to office in 2020. One in three (35%) plan to return in the first half of next year including 28% who expect to return in Q1, but one in five 21% are still undecided. The poll also finds that 16% of member companies have already returned to the office.

Looking at factors to influence the return to the office and in-person events, just over half (52%) say an effective vaccine for COVID-19 would have the most influence on the planning process. Just under a quarter of respondents (24%) would like to see decreased COVID-19 transmission rates worldwide. Fewer respondents requested increased coronavirus testing and rapid results reporting worldwide (8%) and slowing unemployment and growth in global economies (3%).

Throughout the pandemic, the role of a travel manager and the necessity for a managed travel programme has been high on the boardroom agenda. The GBTA poll reveals half (48%) of GBTA companies say their senior managers value a managed travel programme “much more” or “more” than they did before COVID-19. This sentiment is consistent with key corporate stakeholders including human resources or risk management, with 51% of GBTA companies reporting that these stakeholders value the managed travel programme “much more” or “more” than before the pandemic.

While there is no doubt the current global uncertainty around a second wave is delaying the return to business travel, the outlook for 2021 is looking more positive with companies planning a return to face-to-face meetings and events.

This is of course an encouraging sign, but it will only happen if we #staysafe, and observe the rules that the Government(s), are imposing on society around the world.


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