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What next for business travel?

Specialist hospitality analysts STR have revealed the results of their latest survey into business travel across the UK and US and say that while there are signs of recovery consumer sentiment suggests a full return to pre-pandemic levels of business travel may never occur – and that even if volume eventually matches past levels, the segment will probably look different.

In their survey of global business travellers more than half of respondents said they are less likely to travel overnight for work now compared with pre-Covid19 years, while some 40 per cent were more hopeful about travelling if the pandemic is declared over.

Much of the travel landscape has changed with workforce dynamics (remote work and blended travel or ‘bleisure’), the efficiency and costs savings of video meetings, and sustainability becoming more significant considerations in the decision to travel for work. Business travel sentiment in July 2022 dropped after showing a healthy increase in May 2022. Recession fears and recent air travel delays are likely adding to further disincentive to travel.

But business travel is not going extinct. The good news is just under half of business travellers do intend to be our guests in the next 12 months. Interestingly, the least effect was seen in those planning to attend industry events, conferences, and exhibitions, while sessions with suppliers or vendors are most likely to be cut down on, alongside meetings which can be done online.

Travel for group events (requiring a room block of 10 or more rooms) has already made significant strides in recovery in the last six months, reaching 95 per cent of the 2019 total. As most group events tend to be business focused, it is an encouraging sign that this type of travel is already returning.

STR say that potentially setting aside small areas for team meetings and adapting F&B options around a ‘working lunch’, are possible changes that can help along with creating relationships with local businesses which have a large remote worker base.

The green shoots of recovery for business travel are there
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