The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has released the results from its 15th coronavirus-related poll, the first in 2021, to measure the affect on business travel following the onset of the pandemic last year. The latest survey finds that more than half of respondents expect most of their employees will return to the office by Q3, in line with a return to non-essential business travel and a growth in traveler confidence.
“While we continue to face challenges for our industry, there is light at the end of the tunnel and projections for a return to some normality remain positive for Q3,” said Dave Hilfman, interim executive director of GBTA, in a statement. One such reason for a belief in a "return to some normalcy" is the global roll out of vaccination programs; however, uncertainty remains around traveler requirements, such as be pre-testing, testing on arrival or proof of vaccinations.
Here are the key findings of the survey, which polled the GBTA's members across the globe January 11-18, 2020, and received a total of 733 responses:
More than half (54 percent) of GBTA poll respondents expect most of their employees will return to the office by August. Just 8 percent report that most of their employees have already returned to the office; 17 percent expect their employees to return to the office in the next one to four months and an additional one-third (29 percent) expect employees to return to the office in five to eight months; and 10 percent expect their employees to return in nine months or longer. With that said, one-quarter (26 percent) report they have not decided and an additional one in 10 (11 percent) respondents are unsure.
Plans to resume non-critical business travel follow a similar trajectory as returning to the office. Six percent of respondents report their company has resumed non-business critical business travel. One in 10 (13 percent) GBTA members report they expect employees to resume non-critical business travel in the next one to four months and one in three (29 percent) expect this travel category to resume in five to eight months. An additional one in five expect non-critical business travel to resume within nine months or more (20 percent) or have not made a decision (20 percent).
There is a still a large amount of uncertainty around what will be (or is currently) required for employees to return to business travel among GBTA members. Buyers and procurement professionals were asked to rate their comfort with travel suppliers—such as airlines or hotels—using mobile apps to verify the health status of passengers. Four in 10 said they are "comfortable" (32 percent) or "very comfortable" (12 percent); one in five are "not comfortable" (11 percent) or "not at all comfortable" (10 percent) with using mobile apps to verify the health status of passengers or guests. An additional one in five (19 percent) are "neither comfortable nor uncomfortable" or are "unsure" (16 percent).
The vaccine continues to be at the forefront of the recovery plan. When asked to assess comfort with allowing employees to travel for business if certain travel industry workers—such as flight attendants, pilots and hotel employees—are classified as essential workers (which could allow them to receive their vaccination before the general population), a majority say it would. Two-thirds (64 percent) of GBTA member company respondents report vaccinating certain travel industry workers would make them "somewhat" or "a great deal" more comfortable. One in four (27 percent) say it would make them "a little bit" or "not at all" comfortable and one in 10 (9 percent) are unsure.