The return on a business trip depends on who you ask

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As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, some sectors of the hotel industry have recovered and some are still waiting.

Leisure travel has recovered much sooner than most people expected, from a surprisingly solid summer trip in 2020 through a summer of full demand in 2021 to a “summer of all flights” in 2022.

Conventional wisdom says that for a real recovery from travel, the travel and hospitality industry must see trade routes return to pre-pandemic levels. When will business trips recover?


The February 2022 STR survey of nearly 500 global business travelers suggests that some business travel will return, but not to pre-pandemic levels. When respondents were asked to think about their likelihood of traveling for business now after the end of the pandemic, the results were negative rather than positive. More planned to travel less for business compared to pre-pandemic levels.

STR is a CoStar hospitality analysis company.

Two-thirds of consumers are now less likely to travel overnight and 43% are less likely to travel overnight when the pandemic ends – which, of course, depends on the interpretation of each passenger. In addition, the net propensity to travel, which is the difference between those who are more and less likely to travel, has now decreased by 59% for business travel and by 31% for post-pandemic business travel. Among business travelers in the United States, business travel plans were less pessimistic, although they were still deep in the negative zone, a 24% drop in the net slope after the pandemic.

The cost savings realized by companies in 2020, when most of their employees work from home, and the success of using video technology as a substitute for face-to-face meetings are important reasons for this lack of optimism. STR research conducted last year. In addition, increased efforts to reduce travel frequency as a sustainability initiative are gaining momentum.

The negative sentiment regarding business travel has manifested itself elsewhere in our research. Less than a third of those traveling for business before the pandemic agreed that the number of business trips in the future was unlikely to be reminiscent of pre-pandemic COVID-19 levels. On the positive side, this response has slightly improved in this measurement compared to November 2021.

Similar pessimistic business sentiment was revealed in a February 2022 opinion poll Morning consultation. About 42% of frequent business travelers before the pandemic said they would never return. Most interestingly, it increased from 39% when we asked four months earlier in October 2021.


View data from TRIPBAM shows the silver frontier of demand for trade routes. TRIPBAM tracks corporate bookings – not holiday or group bookings – made by 2,600 TRIPBAM customers in 192 countries. It is estimated that this sample of corporate reservations represents 15% to 20% of all corporate reservations. The trend in corporate reservations since 2019 indicates the pace of the recovery of trade routes.

In America, for most of 2019, TRIPBAM reported a 30-day average of 300,000 to 400,000 bookings per month, except in December and January 2020, when the number of bookings declined due to holidays and seasonality. When COVID-19 arrived in the US in March 2020, the number of bookings dropped to essentially zero. Recovery was very slow until 2020 and began to rise in 2021 with backward steps in September 2021 and January 2022 due to delta and omicron variants.

Since February 2022, the number of bookings for 30 days has been steadily increasing. If this pace continues, the average 30-day booking could reach 300,000 by May 2022, and if this trajectory continues, the pace of booking could reach 400,000 by the fall.

Looking at regions around the world, the volume of bookings indexed to 2019 for America, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Latin America reveals a similar story. The volume began to improve in 2021 in all regions except when the delta and omicron variants slowed down. The year 2022 is strong, with the overall market index at 60.29% as of March 30, indicating that the industry has recovered to 60% and that this number may continue to grow. The Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa are close to this overall index, with Latin America reporting bookings at almost 90% in 2019.


McKinsey, a global consulting firm, has confirmed a permanent restriction on trade routes. Recently New York Times The article states that the company recently decided to reduce its travel by 25% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

From the article of January 2022 in LA Times, Southwest Airlines Company’s chief executive was not optimistic and noted that business travel would be slower than expected. American Airlines expects business demand to eventually return, but “secures its bets.”


Recently Global Business Travel Association Research is summarized in this headline: Business Travel Recovery is still gaining traction. A total of 78% of professional contractors and travel agency companies in the February 2022 survey said they were optimistic about the path to recovery from business travel, just over half of those who reported optimism last month.


Proof of the return on business travel is the improving occupancy of the central business districts and the 25 largest markets, ie the areas where most of the demand for business travel occurs. Central business districts were particularly hard hit during the pandemic, and seeing this positive occupancy trajectory in large central areas is a sign of optimism for business travel.


With so many different angles, it is impossible to know what a return from a business trip will look like. One thing is for sure, it will look different than a business trip before a pandemic.

Hotels, business travel companies, airlines and all business-dependent industries will need to realize that change is coming. To quote the recent headline “we will never return to normal, but we go back to work” and if the work requires personal meetings, the business trips will return.

Chris Klauda is Senior Director of Market Insights at STR.

This article presents an interpretation of the data collected by STR, the parent company of HNN. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the editor. For more analysis of STR data, visit the STR Data Blog at STR.com. For information on TRIPBAM, contact brian.emanuelson@tripbam.com.

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