Headwinds are picking up as business travel picks up again in 2022

A resurgence of business travel is critical to a full recovery of the travel industry and the global economy from the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, company brochures constituted about 12% of total travelers and up to 75% of airline profits, and companies spent more than $ 300 billion annually on business travel. According to Condé Nast, one in 10 people have been employed by the tourism industry around the world.

Today, there is a growing body of data that points to a positive direction for a recovery in business and international travel in 2022.

With the US Open for Business, international travel is about to rebound

the lifting of the ban on travel to the United States from 33 countries ended 18 months of travel restrictions to U.S. destinations and boosted business and international travel that lagged far behind the rebound in leisure and regional travel in 2021.

Since the Biden administration’s initial announcement on September 20 to allow fully vaccinated international travelers to enter the United States from early November, travel bookings have recovered up to 70% of pre-pandemic levels, according to a report, with international travel making up more than half of those bookings and European travelers leading the wave. (Of course, these numbers should continue to evolve as we learn more about the omicron variant and its potential effects.)

The recently past $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill is also expected to fuel the future growth of the travel industry by completely modernizing the US transportation system from airports to seaports, passenger trains, roads, tunnels and bridges, including low emission technologies. carbon, electrification and the extension of the network of charging ports for electric vehicles.

Full-service airlines and hotel chains are stepping up

Full-service airlines and hotel chains see significant recovery in business and international travel bookings and prepare to increase capacity for 2022.

Delta Air Lines plans to double its transatlantic capacity in preparation for next summer. The International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), which includes the major global brands British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, also plans to return to 100% of its capacity by summer 2022.

Among the large hotel chains, the leisure segment continued to lead an upturn in revenue in 2021. COVID variants further delayed the full reopening of the offices and the return to normal business activities, Hyatt and Marriott reported a steady improvement in business travel bookings.

In-person attendance at conferences, trade shows and exhibitions in some regions is also increasing. For example, more 7,500 people participated in the Fintech Money20 / 20 conference in Las Vegas at the end of October. While still nearly half below pre-pandemic levels, the turnout shows business travelers are growing more confident and employers are approving travel.

Barriers to recovery

The ongoing pandemic, potential additional delays in return to office deadlines and carbon reduction mandates for business travel all point to a continued slowdown in airline and hotel bookings through 2022.

New records for daily infections have been implemented across Europe. The cases are also increasing in the United States. Additionally, states that have been relatively successful in keeping COVID cases lower in previous waves may now suffer from the lack of development of natural immunity in those who are not vaccinated.

With the colder weather and the holidays approaching, not to mention the global increase in COVID variants, people are spending more time congregating indoors, and cases of COVID will likely continue to increase.

Reduced travel friction

Volatility is the new status quo in business travel. All stakeholders need access to accelerated and increased data sharing in order to successfully integrate predictive systems throughout the business travel decision-making process in full-service airlines, hotel chains, concierge services and corporate clients.

When considering predictive solutions, companies must move beyond an overreliance on historical data and tightly targeted algorithms to open, flexible, and highly customizable systems that enable business travel stakeholders to connect to a wide range of live data streams to inform predictive analytics.

The personalization of business travel must go beyond analyzing historical airline and hotel bookings to a dynamic awareness of individual employee needs, likely route conditions and destination ( for example, travel restrictions, new variations and weather events), as well as corporate travel policy and ESG considerations, to protect employee health and safety and the environment and maximize the return on investment of corporate travel. ‘business.

Systems should also be flexible enough to keep certain personal profile data behind firewalls (e.g. sensitive personal information used to select travel team members) when interfacing with management companies. trips.

Route management must systematically take into account the friction variables between travel routes and destinations, including increasing pandemic variants, climatic events, changing travel restrictions, and the imbalance of supply and demand. demand versus timing of strategic business initiatives.

In addition to implementing predictive technologies, companies should build rapid response teams comprising internal travel managers, data scientists, epidemiologists, and human resources specialists to coordinate with external stakeholders in the business. management of business travel, CDC, EPA and other external resources.

There is no going back to a slower, more predictable world.

About Jonathan J. Kramer

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