A majority of organisations will take a phased approach to resuming domestic and international business travel over the next 12 months, with Asia and EMEA leading the charge.
This is according to a State of the Market survey by global travel management company, FCM Travel Solutions. A total of 1,600 business travel managers, bookers and travellers in EMEA, Asia, the Americas, India, Australia and New Zealand took part in the first phase of the survey last month. FCM clients taking part in the study spanned national businesses spending around US$100,000 per annum to large multinational customers with annual travel spends of over US$100 million.
Seventy per cent of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they expected to increase business travel gradually over a period time with consensus peaking in business travel returning domestically in one to three months (40% of respondents) and internationally in six to 12 months (32% of respondents).
The easing or complete lift of border restrictions ranked as the primary trigger for resuming business travel (70% said this would have a significant impact) closely followed by organisational endorsement that it is safe to travel (68% of respondents indicated traveller safety will have a significant impact and must be reflected in travel policy).
However, only half of the respondents believe that their business travel volumes will eventually reach pre-coronavirus levels.
Business travel recovery will be led by Asia and EMEA, according to survey participants in those regions. In Asia, 50% of respondents have already begun booking domestic travel and 37% expect to resume international travel in three to six months.
In EMEA, 37% of survey participants expect to travel domestically within one to three months, and 32% anticipate starting to book international trips within three to six months. This is due to faster opening of borders intra-region and easier movement geographically compared to the rest of the world.
The highest level of uncertainty around when domestic and international business travel will resume significantly was in the Americas with 28% of respondents saying that they did not know when travel would return.
“Many companies will be looking to Asia and Europe, where restrictions have started to ease gradually. China was the first market that bounced back within Asia and we saw domestic travel climb significantly through a steady upward trajectory (prior to Beijing’s recent outbreak at Xinfadi market),” said Bertrand Saillet, managing director for Asia, FCM Travel Solutions.
Other notable findings in the State of the Market study’s first phase are as follows:
- Companies in the mining and construction sectors indicate the fastest return to travel: 64% of respondents in mining sector expect to travel domestically within one to three months and 69% of respondents in construction sector expect to travel domestically and internationally within the same timeframe.
- Construction (39%), training & education (35%) and financial services (34%) sectors indicate increasing business travel within first six months, due to a shorter lead time in arranging business travel.
- Winning new business (43% of respondents) and managing existing client relationships (39% of respondents) are the two dominant business activities motivating organisations to a return to travel.
- While a large portion of respondents indicated a need to revamp travel policy post-Covid-19, 28% of respondents were unsure what needed to change. Of those that did indicate areas for travel policy change, “health and hygiene” and “duty of care” considerations were the two dominant categories.
- When asked whether changes implemented during Covid-19 will reduce their need for business travel, there was a 50/50 split between participants agreeing or disagreeing.
“It is imperative that we not only help companies to restart their business travel programmes, but also elevate it. From these insights, we want to optimise efforts and orchestrate travel recovery by aligning our client’s future travel policies with their business recovery plan. This research reveals the fundamental principles of an organisation’s focus on business travel after the pandemic and will help us to translate into tangible actions contributing towards a corporate’s travel recovery programme,” added Saillet.
Phase Two of the State of the Market study has now been launched among the same 1,600 participants in order to review and monitor any marked variation in the first round of results while governments continue to relax lockdown restrictions, propose air travel corridors, or implement quarantine periods for international travellers.
“The business travel landscape and the needs of our customers have changed beyond all recognition over the last few months and business travel conditions will continue to evolve and shift as everyone comes out of the other side of the global pandemic,” said Marcus Eklund, global managing director, FCM Travel Solutions. “It’s vital that we understand if and how our clients in each market, and industry sectors will start to travel again, and their primary concerns and objectives when they do so.
“The first phase of our State of the Market study has given us valuable insight into this process and how we can provide the best level of support. However, the whole post-Covid-19 era is still full of uncertainties and everyone is living and working in an environment that will continue to change. This State of the Market study is therefore an ongoing research project including customer polls in phase one and two, which will be followed by further in-depth customer interviews and focus groups over the next two months,” said Eklund.