Eager to get back on the road again

The Global Business Travel Association’s latest poll results: slightly more than half of business travellers expect travel to resume within the next two or three months

The majority of GBTA member companies expect most (33%) or some (33%) employees will be willing to travel. Credit: Getty images

VIRGINIA, USA - Business travel has become the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic by coming to a halt across the globe, according to the latest research conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).  GBTA's 9,000-plus members manage more than US$345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually.

GBTA conducted its fifth lightning poll among membership from April 1-4, 2020, and received responses from some 1,000 member companies throughout the world.  

"With the spread of the coronavirus and many countries under quarantine and other restrictions, it is not surprising that business travel has come to a halt.

"The survey shows that travellers are eager to get back on the road, which is a positive sign for future business travel. Once this pandemic is successfully combatted, business travel can return to being a positive economic driver of the global economy," said Mr Scott Solombrino GBTA's CEO and executive director.

Key findings

Among the poll's key findings are:
•    Almost every GBTA member company (98%) reports canceling and/or suspending all international business travel. In addition, most (92%) report they have canceled or suspended all or most domestic travel.

•    Most GBTA members based in the United States (93%) and Europe (92%) report their company has canceled or suspended all or most domestic business travel. On average, GBTA travel buyers estimate their company has canceled 92% of business trips booked for March and April 2020.

•    GBTA members vary in terms of when they expect business travel to resume. Slightly more than half expect travel to resume within the next two (32%) or three (19%) months, while 16% are unsure.

•    Almost every travel company (96%) characterises the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as significant. Two-thirds of GBTA members who work for suppliers and/or travel management companies (TMC) report their company has laid off (69%), furloughed (66%) and cut staff salaries (66%) as a result of the pandemic.

•    On average, suppliers and TMCs who have laid off or furloughed employees estimate that nearly two-thirds (64%) of the employees at their companies have been affected by these actions.

•    When asked to assess employee willingness to travel once restrictions are lifted, the majority of GBTA member companies expect most (33%) or some (33%) employees will be willing to travel. A much smaller proportion anticipates unwillingness on the part of some (13%) or most (2%) employees to travel.

•    The coronavirus has led many companies to host virtual meetings. the vast majority of GBTA member companies report they use virtual meetings frequently (83%) or occasionally (11%) due to physical distancing concerns.

•    GBTA member companies work to help protect employees from coronavirus including instituting work from home policies (86%), providing updated health and safety information (76%), and developing contingency plans to get work done such as teleconferences and video meetings (74%).

•    In addition, some GBTA member companies report they have limited the number of people who work in the office (49%) and/or closed the office entirely (42%). Other actions include temporarily closing all but essential departments (34%) and moving some employees to new locations (13%).

•    A majority of GBTA members (62%) expect the coronavirus will change the way their company conducts business once the threat is over.