According to a Deloitte study on business travel conducted last February in the United States and Europe, this activity should return to its pre-pandemic scope, excluding inflation, at the end of 2024-beginning of 2025. But it is reborn in a different form, with a rise in smaller, connected events and an increasing focus on sustainability and cost reduction.
Although it is rebounding less quickly than leisure tourism, business travel is picking up. According to the third edition of the Deloitte business travel study, “Navigating Toward a New Normal,” we can expect its “full recovery from 2019 by late 2024 or early 2025.” For all that, “when inflation and lost earnings are factored in, the business travel market could be 10 to 20 percent lower than it was before the pandemic.”
Based on a survey of 334 U.S. and European executives responsible for overseeing the travel budget conducted between February 7 and 23, 2023, the study provides insight into “why and when employees are being asked to travel for business, as well as the dynamics that are creating headwinds and opportunities for the industry.”
And beyond the business volume aspect, the pandemic has clearly left its mark on the way companies think about business travel. Inflation, sustainability, and the rise of technology are definitely influencing their approaches.
International travel to drive recovery
The first finding is that “business travel spending in the U.S. and Europe is expected to reach more than half (according to 57% of companies surveyed) of pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2023 and jump to 71% by year-end.” In addition, 71% of U.S. companies and 68% of European companies expect a full recovery in travel spending by the end of 2024.
International travel is expected to drive this recovery: for U.S. respondents, it is expected to represent 33% of spending in 2023, up from 21% in 2022 and similar levels to 2019.
The main objective of international travel is to re-establish a direct relationship with clients and prospects. In Europe, working on client projects, followed by sales meetings, are expected to be drivers, while in the U.S., building relationships with clients is the primary motivation for these trips, as well as connecting with global industry colleagues.
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