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European buyers see strong return of international travel

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European-based travel managers have seen their international bookings recover to around 60 per cent of pre-Covid levels, according to the latest survey by the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association).

The global poll of 600 travel managers, suppliers and industry workers found that Europe’s recovery for international corporate travel has outpaced the North American market, where overseas trips have only returned to around 50 per cent of 2019 levels. Europe is also well ahead of the global average of 54 per cent for the return of international corporate travel.

Although, Europe’s recovery in domestic business travel, which has returned to 63 per cent of pre-pandemic trips, still lags North America where non-international travel has bounced back to 68 per cent, while the global average was 67 per cent.

GBTA’s first global survey of 2023 assessed industry sentiment on bookings and spending, as well as optimism levels, employees’ willingness to travel, supplier staffing constraints and the impact of China reopening its borders.

The study found that despite worries about recession in many markets, organisations are expecting to send more employees on business trips this year, with sectors such as finance, insurance, professional services and consulting showing “stronger signs” of increasing their travel spending in 2023.

The GBTA found that 78 per cent of travel managers were expecting their organisations to take “more” or “a lot more” business trips this year than they did in 2022. Only 7 per cent of managers are anticipating that their travellers will go on fewer trips this year.

Travellers are also more willing to travel for business in 2023, according to 90 per cent of respondents, while 88 per cent of managers are feeling more optimistic about the “path to recovery” than they did in late 2022.

Suppliers are also not expecting economic gloom to derail business travel’s recovery with 86 per cent anticipating that spending by corporate clients will be higher in 2023 than it was last year.

Suzanne Neufang, CEO of the GBTA, said: “The return of business travel will vary across regions, sectors and companies. Despite ongoing global concerns of a recession, a majority of corporate travel managers indicate their companies are anticipating more business travel than last year.”

The survey also highlighted how staffing for travel suppliers was “still suppressed” following the pandemic, although this situation is expected to improve in 2023 as more employees are recruited.

It’s a different story for corporate travel departments with 78 per cent of buyers saying their employee numbers will either be the same or “somewhat larger” than they were pre-Covid. Almost half of buyers (45 per cent) expect their programme budgets to be higher this year with increased spending on salaries, technology and consultants.

source: BTN Europe