Corporate travel seeing a slow but steady rebound, says new survey

Corporate travel seeing a slow but steady rebound, says new survey

TORONTO — Corporate travel is bouncing back slowly but surely, and with a few stipulations.

According to the third phase of a combined multinational ‘State of the Market’ survey by FCM Travel Solutions and Corporate Travel, 50% of respondents said they have employees already travelling or booking reservations to travel in the near future. The combined results of the research, conducted from April to August 2020, shows that over 90% of businesses indicated that they plan to travel domestically and take short-haul international flights, within three months of governments reopening borders and lifting restrictions, such as quarantine.

However, the number of trips taken will likely be lower, as only 26% of businesses are planning to return to their pre-COVID-19 levels for domestic travel in 2021. The remaining 74% of businesses predict reduced domestic travel for the immediate year ahead.

Pre-COVID-19, the average number of businesses trips per traveller was 6-8 per year; this number is likely to fall between 3 and 4 trips per person, per year until 2023.

The following is an overview of professionals currently travelling:

  • Industries that continued to travel or recommenced travel the fastest were Mining & Wholesale, with roughly 40% of respondents from these businesses saying they continued travelling throughout the global shutdown; 80% of resumed travel at this point
  • Construction and food services follow closely behind with roughly 70% of respondents indicating that they’ve started travelling again
  • Across all industries, the first people to travel will be/have been sales, client management and project workforce; 19% of respondents agree that the least likely to travel in the near future were administration and internal support staff as they are not client facing

Moreover, the study revealed that the future of travel buying behaviour will be influenced by the following:

  • Airline, hotel, car/ground COVID-safety protocols: 37% of respondents are reviewing their hotel suppliers to ensure they are COVID-safe, and 25% of respondents rate Duty of Care their number one focus as travel resumes in their business
  • Shortened purchase window: The average purchase window for domestic travel has dropped from 7-10 days pre-COVID, to 3-4 days post-COVID
  • Flexible fares
  • Avoidance of overnight requirements
  • Virtual meetings as a backup

In addition to focusing on budgets, traveller confidence and safety procedures, businesses large and small are re-evaluating their travel policies in the wake of COVID-19.

A total of 84% of businesses interviewed have active travel policies, either at a national or global level. During COVID-19, 40% of respondents who had existing policies introduced interim travel policies, providing more restrictive guidelines for travellers. Interim policies include varying definitions of indefinite travel bans, classifications for business-critical travel (where safe), new approved procedures, general guidelines for changed supplier services, and procedures for business meetings.

A total of 50% of customers are making further changes to their policies as travel resumes. Priorities of revised policies include: health & hygiene; pre-trip approval; Business Class travel approval; whether the business is essential; journey changes; adhering to COVID conduct; and using preferred and COVID-safe suppliers.

The third stage of the ‘State of the Market’ survey was conducted by FCM’s consulting arm, 4th Dimension (4D), and consisted on one-to-one in-depth interviews with 250 of FCM’s multinational, large-scale clients and Corporate Traveller’s SME customers globally, representing over 60 countries where both TMCs manage their travel. It follows the results of two State of the Market surveys released in May and June, both conducted by 4D among 2,320 business travel managers, bookers and travellers in EMEA, Asia, the Americas, India, Australia and New Zealand, to gauge their sentiments on business travel during the COVID-19 crisis.

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