Coronavirus can jeopardise the global business travel industry: GBTA

Business travel will inevitably take a tumble due to spread of coronavirus; empty airport pictured

According to a new lightning poll released today by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), coronavirus could potentially cost the industry US$46.6 billion per month. That translates into US$559.7 billion annually, or 37% of the industry’s total 2020 forecasted global spend.

To understand the coronavirus’s effects on this travel, GBTA conducted a poll of its worldwide membership on February 25, 2020. GBTA members routinely send their employees to meetings and events throughout the world, with primary destinations being North America, Europe, China, and Asia-Pacific.

Business travel will inevitably take a tumble due to spread of coronavirus; empty airport pictured

GBTA received responses from 401 companies, and among the poll’s key findings are:

  • The coronavirus is having a significant impact on business meetings and events. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of GBTA companies report they have cancelled at least a “few” meetings or events. Nearly one-fifth of respondents (18%) report cancelled “many” events, and one-fourth (25%) have cancelled “some” meetings/events.
  • Members are also postponing meetings and events due to the coronavirus. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents have postponed at least a few meetings or events, and nearly one-fifth (17%) report having postponed “many” events. A much smaller percentage of respondents report having moved their events to new locations due to the virus.
  • There is considerable uncertainty about the length of time these disruptions will last. Of those respondents whose companies have cancelled or suspended business travel due to the coronavirus, 54% are unsure when they expect travel to resume. About one-third (31%) expect travel to resume in the next three months, but 14% expect the delays to last up to six months.
  • These cancellations and postponements are negatively affecting GBTA member companies’ revenues. A majority of GBTA’s supplier companies report that the coronavirus has had a “significant” (24%) or “moderate” (31%) impact on their company’s revenues, with airlines and hospitality providers among the most affected. Only 14% of respondents report that the virus has had no impact on their revenues.
  • The virus has had a major impact on business travel to Asia. Of the respondents, 95% report that their companies have cancelled or suspended “most” or “all” business trips to China. A majority of respondents have taken similar steps for events in Hong Kong (73%) and Taiwan (54%), and a substantial number of companies (45%) have also cancelled or suspended travel to and meetings in other Asia-Pacific countries (e.g., Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia).
  • Almost one-fourth (23%) of respondents report their company has cancelled or suspended at least some trips to European countries (e.g., Italy, Germany, and France). Only 8% report having cancelled or suspended “most” or “all” of their European trips, however.
  • The coronavirus is causing many GBTA member companies to change their travel policies. Forty-three per cent of respondents report their company has instituted new trip approval procedures, and 51% say they have modified their travel safety and security features for their travellers.

According to Scott Solombrino, GBTA’s chief operating officer and executive director, these findings are cause for alarm.

“It is clear that the coronavirus is having a significant – and potentially very costly – effect on our members, their companies and on the overall business travel industry. It is fundamentally affecting the way many companies are now doing business. If this turns into a global pandemic, the industry may well lose billions of dollars – an impact that will have negative ramifications for the entire global economy.”

At the same time, Solombrino praised members for their responses. “Our industry’s first priority is the health and safety of the business traveller, and our members are being appropriately cautious and pro-active in their approach to the situation.”

The complete 2020 Coronavirus Poll can be found here.

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