Is the growth of business travel down to the return of in-person events?

The business travel industry can look forward to a good year ahead thanks to, in part, the return of in-person meetings and events.

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January 1, 2024
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The business travel industry can look forward to a good year ahead thanks to, in part, the return of in-person meetings and events.

That’s according to a recent report by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), in collaboration with Visa.

The 2023 Business Travel Index Outlook (BTI) annual global report and forecast predicts the industry could grow to $1.8 trillion by 2027.

Claire Conboy, Head of Meetings and Events at Brighter Events, said:

“Meetings and events are certainly back with a bang - following the pandemic it is more important than ever for companies to reconnect with colleagues and bring people back together with in-person events. That said, the benefits of virtual events are still very much prominent, and we are finding that hybrid events are the future, especially with the increase in technological capabilities that are now available. Holding your event as hybrid opens up a whole world of opportunities in terms of both attendance levels and reaching that global audience, and so we are finding that a high proportion of our events do now have that hybrid element to it which we didn’t see pre-pandemic.”

With the industry currently accelerating quicker than anticipated, it is expected to overtake pre-pandemic spending of $1.4 trillion in 2024.

That follows a rise in global business travel spending by 47% last year to $1.03 trillion, with this year expected to reach the 32% growth mark.

The report, revealed at the 2023 GBTA Convention, is a yearly prediction of business travel spending and growth which covers 72 countries and 44 industries.

And in this 15th annual report, for the first time, there is also a survey of more than 4,700 business travellers across five global regions which quizzes them on travel preferences and spending.

Stand out findings from the report include:

  • Spending in 2022 was broken down into $183 billion air spend, $395 billion lodging spend, $191 billion in food and drink spend, $138 billion in ground transportation spend and $121 billion in other expenses
  • The two main reasons for the stabilisation of the industry are the return of in-person meetings and events as well as the recovery of some business travel capacity and volumes
  • Western Europe was the fastest growing region in 2022
  • Average spend for a business trip per person was $1,018
  • When paying for business travel, 66% of travelers say their company provides them with a corporate credit card

Ewan Kassir, Head of Global Sales for Clarity, said:

“The upward trend in travel isn’t surprising. In fact, one of the best indicators is looking around the GBTA expo hall, seeing the volume of attendees and the number visiting the World Travel Inc stand at the show. Compared to last year, there is a significant increase. That, in itself, is a micro view on how travel is bouncing back. The majority of clients and prospects we met and discussed travel programmes with, all spoke about growth of their programme, more global market requirements and more need for travel. This supports the numbers being discussed. However, what we also have to do is appreciate the size of the industry growth is also down to how much everything costs. We may be experiencing above pre-pandemic volumes in the near future, but we are also experiencing above pre-pandemic costs.”

Suzanne Neufang, CEO of GBTA, said:

“The headwinds that were anticipated to impact the rebound of global business travel over the past year didn’t materialise and that is good news. This latest forecast now indicates an accelerated return to pre-pandemic spending levels sooner than anticipated as well as growth ahead in the coming years. Business travel spending is a key indicator, but how travel volumes will continue to rebound is yet to be seen. The BTI data also reflects the remarkable efforts of the industry to adapt, innovate and thrive despite the challenges, along with the ongoing role and value of business travel to economies, companies and professionals worldwide.”

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