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20 business travel statistics from 2020

21 Jan 2021

Brought to you by TravelPerk, the #1 business travel platform.

20 business travel statistics from 2020

New research published by Harvard’s Growth Lab confirmed something we’ve believed in for a long time at TravelPerk. Corporate travel plays a really important role in the growth of a country’s new and existing industries (ScienceDaily). The travel restrictions imposed around the world as a result of the pandemic brought the travel industry to a halt and had a massive impact on business and economics worldwide.

The “moving of brains” has to return or it could result in the double-digit loss of GDP, according to the study. We happen to agree – the return to business travel is inevitable—it’ll just be a little different than it was before

Before we can launch into looking to rebuild the business travel market, we first need to understand the impact 2020 had on the industry. So, we put together a list of the 20 most interesting business travel statistics from 2020. Check them out below!

Travel greatly decreased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

Empty airport
  • International mobility decreased by 65% due to COVID-19 – the lowest rate of travel since the introduction of the Boeing 707 in 1958 that marked the start of the Jet Age (McKinsey)
  • While business travel was down by 90% at the height of the pandemic, some companies saw activity return to about 80% of pre-pandemic levels when restrictions eased over the summer (McKinsey)
  • Hotels were at 29% occupancy worldwide, compared with 72% occupancy over the same period in 2019 (McKinsey)
  • The global revenue for the business and leisure travel industry is estimated at $396.37 billion for 2020. This represents a decrease of about 42% from the previous year (Statista)
  • Travel managers planning a return to travel are mainly concerned with (McKinsey):
    • Being able to change or cancel flights easily (70%)
    • Having access to security fast lanes (69%)
    • Maintaining social distancing through spacious seating on flights (66%)

Business travel is bouncing back, slowly but surely

  • While it’s hard to say for sure when business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels, we’re seeing some interesting domestic recovery trends already. In Europe, domestic travel in Germany was at a low point back in April at only 8%. However, by September, this reached 71% of pre-pandemic levels! Something similar happened in Spain, where domestic travel was as low as 1% in April and rose to 45% in September when the restrictions were relaxed (TravelPerk) 
  • Business travelers will start traveling domestically before international travel resumes. US business travelers are leading the charge at 47% recovery as of January 2021. That’s followed by Spain at 25% domestic recovery, and Germany at 12% (TravelPerk)
  • Domestic business travel in China is already bouncing back – in fact, only 2% of respondents to this McKinsey report had taken a domestic business trip before May, whereas 25% of respondents had taken one by August
  • According to our own survey, 50% of companies have implemented new corporate travel policies for the next normal (TravelPerk)
  • In a survey from December 2020, 30% of respondents stated that their companies would designate 30% of their total business travel spend on sales or account management meetings with customers in 2021. This represents a 6% increase from 2019 (Statista)

Global business travel will come back, it’ll just be a little different

  • Flexibility to change & cancel bookings on hotels, flights, train tickets, and car rentals will become a staple of travel management post-COVID. In fact, 52% of travelers express that international travel restrictions deter them from booking accommodation, for example, in case they cannot later be refunded (GlobalData)
  • Your travel planning windows will be shorter. You’ll look for tickets and accommodation closer to your departure date than you did before. Data from our own platform reveals that searches for trips less than 6 days away are now almost equal to searches for trips between 7 and 30 days away. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the vast majority of trips were searched for and planned 7 to 30 days in advance (TravelPerk)
  • Safety from infection will continue to be a concern as we go forward. 40% of passengers are worried about contracting the virus while flying. 76% consider that having all passengers and crew members wear face coverings is the most effective prevention method. Leaving the middle seat open on flights is the second most demanded safety measure for airlines to implement (OAG)
  • Rail travel will boom over air travel and is already leading the path to recovery. Our own data shows that 80% of domestic trips in Germany are being booked on trains (TravelPerk). Furthermore, nearly 50% of passengers now find reducing their carbon footprint when traveling more important than they did before COVID-19 (GlobalData).  
  • Airfares could rise by as much as 54% in a post-pandemic world. This will be due to the growing need to keep planes at a higher standard of cleanliness than before, more contactless solutions, and 24-hour service at airports. Travel managers will therefore need to find ways to optimize their business travel spending and consider savings as a significant part of their company policy for travel. (BBC

The future is both face-to-face and remote

  • Zoom reported more than 300 million daily participants in virtual meetings in 2020 (BBC)
  • However, despite the success of digital conferencing tools, 75% of business travelers believe the travel experience and face-to-face meetings for sales and pitching are preferable to remote working (Business Traveler)
  • In fact, 60% of corporate travelers claim that the majority of deals and decisions cannot be made virtually (Business Traveler)
  • Work from home used to be a benefit reserved for the “coolest” companies. In a post-COVID world, 80% of company leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic (Gartner)
  • Close to 40% of those currently working in the EU began to telework full-time as a result of the pandemic (EC)

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