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22 Mar 2022

New Business Travel Show Europe poll reveals Covid continues to play havoc with planning, but budgets are healthier than expected 6 months ago

New Business Travel Show Europe poll reveals Covid continues to play havoc with planning, but budgets are healthier than expected 6 months ago

On the eve of the second anniversary of the UK going into a pandemic-induced lockdown, new research from Business Travel Show Europe has revealed that Covid is continuing to play havoc with business travel planning, but budgets are healthier than those predicted six months ago. The poll – answered by 139 travel buyers from around the world – shows that 72 per cent of budgets were reduced for 2022, significantly fewer than the 86 per cent predicted back in September 2021. More budgets remained the same, too – 16 per cent compared to a predicted 4 per cent. The number of budgets on the rise – 11 per cent – was roughly in line with estimates.

Business Travel Show Europe returns to ExCeL London from 29-30 June 2022 bringing together over 650 buyers and 110 exhibitors for high-level, in-person networking and a premium conference agenda. Registration is open now with free tickets available to qualified travel bookers, buyers and managers. The hosted buyer programme is also accepting applications from global, national and EMEA travel managers with a minimum £ million annual spend.

Graph 1

The survey also asked buyers ‘how quickly do you expect your organisation’s business travel activity to return to pre-pandemic levels?’.

  • 52 per cent believe they will see a 100 per cent return by the end of 2024, with 8 per cent pinning their hopes on reaching pre-pandemic levels this year
  • Nearly half of buyers (48 per cent) believe their organisation’s business travel volume will return to up to 59% of pre-pandemic levels this year

Graph 2

Covid came into play when buyers were asked to pinpoint the single biggest element causing the current
reduction in their business travel volumes and 34 per cent blamed ongoing travel restrictions. This figure was 24 per cent in September (prior to the Omicron outbreak).

The top three reasons were:

  • Ongoing travel restrictions – 34 per cent
  • Pressure to reduce costs – 17 per cent
  • Duty of care induced travel bans – 15 per cent

Graph 4

‘“Six months is a long time in business travel and so much has changed since we last polled our buyers in September 2021,” said Louis Magliaro, Executive VP, BTN Group.

“We have survived another Covid variant and welcomed the news that many countries are now reducing – or eliminating entirely – the robust restrictions that have made travel impossible at worst, and painstakingly complex at best, over the last two years. “I genuinely believe we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and these survey results also show an increase in optimism and confidence among our buyers. The UK is leading the way when it comes to emerging from Covid and reopening its borders and we can’t wait to bring the industry together again in London for Business Travel Show Europe in June.”

Scott Davies, CEO Institute of Travel Management, commented:

“The results of ITM’s most recent buyer priorities survey echo those of the Business Travel Show Europe’s latest research. ‘Managing the return to travel’ made its debut at number one on the list of top ten priorities for business travel managers in 2022. However, 48 per cent expect their travel spend to be down by 50 per cent in 2022 indexed to their 2019 volumes. They will  also allocate only 25 per cent of their budget to internal meetings, compared with 50 per cent in 2019. “Yet even though volumes and budgets are still supressed, almost all of ITM’s buyer members are still having to manage an increased workload. Whilst business travel ground to a virtual halt two years’ ago, the corporate travel buyer’s ‘to do’ list certainly did not; in fact, it increased exponentially,” explained Scott Davies.

“Over the last two years, almost all of our buyer members assumed unprecedentedly complex additional responsibilities, from disruption management, traveller guidance on Covid travel restrictions, changes to EU travel rules and extensive new levels of reporting, to manging the return to travel that meets duty of care and sustainability goals.”

Business Travel Show Europe runs from 29-30 June at ExCeL London, alongside TravelTech Show and The Meetings Show.