GBTA: ‘Optimistic’ signs for 2024 despite challenges

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Global corporate travel could enjoy an “even stronger year” in 2024 despite facing challenges such…

Global corporate travel could enjoy an “even stronger year” in 2024 despite facing challenges such as rising prices, economic concerns and the impact of geopolitical events, according to the latest survey from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

The GBTA Business Travel Outlook Poll, which surveyed nearly 900 buyers and suppliers around the world, found that 84 per cent of respondents had seen their organisation’s corporate travel “largely” or “mostly” return to pre-Covid levels in 2023.

This overall figure was slightly higher in Europe at 87 per cent, with 42 per cent saying their business travel had “mostly” recovered and 45 per cent stating that it had “largely or fully” recovered. 

The level of domestic bookings in Europe was still only at 70 per cent compared with 2019 – lower than all other regions. While international bookings for the continent were at 69 per cent over the same timescale.

“With some exceptions, as an industry global business travel has continued to rebound over the past year and has made great strides in getting back to business as usual,” said Suzanne Neufang, GBTA’s CEO. 

“Ongoing challenges are expected, but there are optimistic indicators for an even stronger year ahead as organisations continue to leverage business travel and face-to-face connections as a critical part of their strategy to achieve important and ambitious objectives.”

Globally, the main barriers to business travel this year have been keeping up with price increases (69 per cent), inflation and recession concerns (63 per cent) and geopolitical events (44 per cent).

The survey also highlighted some regional differences with far more European respondents (54 per cent) describing climate impact concerns as a barrier to travel – significantly ahead of all other regions. The ability to recruit and retain staff was also seen as less of a problem in Europe (20 per cent) compared with North America and Asia Pacific.

Less positively, Europe was the only region where employees’ willingness to travel has not increased year-on-year, with 31 per cent of European respondents saying their travellers wanted to travel less – much higher than all other regions – while only 28 per cent said their employees wanted to travel more frequently.

The good news for 2024 is that despite lingering economic worries, two-thirds of all buyers globally are expecting their budgets to increase (39 per cent) or stay the same (28 per cent), with only 14 per cent likely to limit business travel next year.

Having said that, cost management will be a top priority with 62 per cent of respondents emphasising its importance – ahead of traveller safety (44 per cent) and sustainability (37 per cent).

Other trends identified in the poll include a focus on technology with 63 per cent set to increase investment in this area. This was followed by sustainability initiatives (45 per cent) and forging alliances and partnerships (40 per cent).

The GBTA said that the “jury was still out” for buyers on NDC with 50 per cent globally (41 per cent in Europe) yet to start to implement NDC, while 22 per cent have experienced challenges with rolling out this technology. Only 10 per cent said the process had gone smoothly.

While 45 per cent of buyers feel that airlines are moving “too fast” to roll out NDC – this figure has “softened” in the past six months and was down from 53 per cent in April’s survey. More than one-third (36 per cent) feel that third parties, such as TMCs, should now be ready to handle NDC bookings – up from a figure of 29 per cent in April.

North American buyers are most likely to feel that airlines are going too fast on NDC (50 per cent). But this figure drops to just 33 per cent for European buyers with more of them (45 per cent) believing that intermediaries should be ready for NDC.

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