J.D. Power, U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics are monitoring the return of business travel with a new quarterly tracking survey.
The first round of data in the Quarterly Business Travel Tracker revealed that business travel is coming back. The research found that 84 percent of business travelers expect to take at least one trip to attend conferences, conventions or trade shows in the next six months.
There are two main barriers to the return of business travel, the survey revealed.
The Quarterly Business Travel Tracker also revealed that, while less than one in 10 U.S. business travelers are uncertain if they would travel in the next six months, the top reason for uncertainty was that meetings and events are not occurring. Corporate policies restricting business travel were the second-highest reason for uncertainty.
The release of the survey results corresponded with Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) on April 7, 2022. The day shines a spotlight on the positive impact of business meetings, trade shows, incentive travel, exhibitions, conferences and conventions on people, businesses and the economy.
“The return of in-person meetings and events—and business travel in general—is a welcome sight after more than two years of pandemic-related uncertainty,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. “There is simply no substitute for a face-to-face meeting, which is proven to lead to more fruitful business opportunities and can help power an economic and jobs recovery in communities across America.”
Business travel does look to be rebounding slowly.
U.S. Travel forecasts that business travel spending was still down 60 percent from pre-pandemic levels in 2021, the Quarterly Business Travel Tracker’s latest data shows a clear shift in American business travelers’ desire to return to in-person meetings.
Forty-seven percent of business travelers surveyed said that business travel that supports developing relationships with customers and suppliers was critical to their job performance.
Twenty-three percent said it was critical for closing sales, and 26 percent said it helped build awareness about an organization’s products and services.
Twenty-three percent also indicated business travel was important for professional development and 18 percent said it was good for engagement and motivation. Sixteen percent said business travel helped build an understanding of current trends.
“While the data indicates a strong desire from American business travelers to hit the road again, there is a big difference between willingness to travel and actually taking a trip,” said Dow. “Corporate leaders should seize the competitive advantage, budget for business travel, and encourage their teams to get back on the road and reestablish those personal connections that only come with face-to-face interactions.”
The Quarterly Business Travel Tracker also features a forward-looking Business Travel Index, which indicates that business travel activity slowed somewhat in Q1 2022, but business conditions for travel such as GDP and business investment are quite favorable, reaching an index of 105 for Q2 2022 (2019=100).
“In-person conferences have relational and financial impacts to corporations that are significant,” said Andrea Stokes, Practice Lead for Hospitality at J.D. Power. “Nearly half of survey respondents indicated that conferences, conventions, and trade shows are critical to developing relationships with customers, suppliers or others. Nearly one in four respondents indicated these events are critical to closing sales.”
U.S. Travel put forward policies that could restore business travel, suggesting that Congress enact policies to help revive business travel spending in restaurants and entertainment venues, while also urging the Biden administration to remove remaining travel restrictions to facilitate a faster return to international business travel.