GBTA Outlook Forecasts Full Recovery By 2024

In its newly released BTI Outlook, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) reports that the business travel recovery in 2021 proceeded at a slower, more cautionary pace than expected from a year ago.

But the GBTA also notes that global business travel spending is expected to surge in 2022 with a full recovery expected in 2024 — ending the year on pace with the 2019 pre-pandemic spend of $1.4 trillion, and a year sooner than previously forecast.

Highlight of the BTI Outlook reveal that:

  • Global business travel activity has begun its rebound from the sharp downturn brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. After declining 53.8% in 2020 to $661 billion, global expenditures are expected to have rebounded 14% in 2021 to $754 billion. This was slower than forecast in GBTA’s previous Outlook issued in Feb. 2021.
  • Despite recovery setbacks in 2021, a year-over-year surge of 38% is expected in 2022 as recovery and pent-up demand kicks into a higher gear, bringing global business travel spending back to over $1 trillion.
  • Recovery will continue into 2023, with global spending rising 23% year-over-year as even more international and group travel comes back online.
  • By 2024, global business travel is forecast to have made a full recovery, ending the year at $1.48 trillion or just above the 2019 pre-pandemic spend of $1.4 trillion.
  • In 2025, global business travel growth is forecast to slow to 4.3%–just below the 10-year average growth rate of 5.1% coming into 2020–ending the year at a forecasted $1.5 trillion.

But the GBTA’s Outlook also reported that persistent COVID-related threats and disruptions, supply chain strains, labor shortages, rising inflation, increased costs, and lagging recovery in Asian markets are just a few of the risks for continued on-target recovery.

Additionally, yet to be determined are the potential impacts of emerging factors including broad adoption of remote working models, long term cuts or elimination of business trips and travel volume, and the increased focus on sustainability practices and policies for business travel.

Suzanne Neufang, CEO of GBTA, observed that: “Of any year we’ve issued the BTI Outlook forecast, this one was the most anticipated and it’s no surprise.”

Neufang continued: “The business travel industry recognizes there are factors, related to COVID-19 and beyond, that could impact the road ahead over the coming years. However, there is optimism overall as the industry, companies and travelers worldwide lean into recovery and the much-needed return to business travel.”

Other key findings from GBTA’s BTI Outlook include analysis of 2021 challenges for the business travel industry as well as recovery outlook into 2025. These include:

  • The global business travel recovery that began in late 2020 hit a fair number of bumps in 2021. Pandemic surges, variant introductions, uneven vaccination rates, and mounting supply chain challenges all took their toll on previously forecast growth expectations.
  • The business travel recovery will also vary by industry. Professional and business services and real estate have been resilient to date, while wholesale trade has been challenged. Accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment and recreation, and retail trade, which were significantly impacted during the pandemic, are expected to recover sharply over the forecast period.

As for the challenges to the pace of the recovery of business travel, the GBTA Outlook reports that global GDP growth is expected to reach 5.8% for 2021 and 4.2% in 2022.  Should another wave of COVID materialize, China further decelerates, and/or an energy shortage intensify, more downward revisions may be necessary.

The BTI Outlook outlines four conditions necessary for full recovery in global business travel:

  • The global vaccination effort
  • National travel policy
  • Business traveller sentiment
  • Corporate travel management policy

The recovery remains highly dependent on the vaccine rollout, employees’ return to the office, and a normalization of travel policies on both the national and corporate levels.

GBTA’s Outlook notes that travel managers will also face the challenge of juggling duty of care with rising costs, sustainability priorities, and new considerations on the ROI of business travel.

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