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100+ business travel statistics (some never before released)

27 Apr 2021 14 MIN READ

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

Home>Resources>Blog>100+ business travel statistics (some never before released)
100+ business travel statistics (some never before released)

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

The “moving of brains”, as it’s referred to by the researchers of the study, has to and will return or it could result in the double-digit loss of GDP. We happen to agree – the return to business travel is inevitable—it’ll just be a little different than it was before. No matter how digital our lives seem, we humans are social creatures. We crave interaction and intra-personal connections. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, business travel was valued at 1.28 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019.

From business travel trends to industry disruptors, we’ve collected every business travel statistic for 2020 and 2021. We’ve also assessed our own data from our business travel booking platform to share never-before-seen statistics. To get all of our proprietary statistics, be sure to download our ebook.

COVID travel program

How the coronavirus pandemic affected business travel

COVID travel mask

Business travel was hit hard by the 2020 health crisis

  • 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 business travel 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%)

Never fear—business travel is bouncing back

  • 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 proprietary data) 
  • 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 proprietary data)
  • 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)

You’ll travel a little differently than you did before

  • 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 state of business travel pre-2020

Airport business trip

The rest of this article provides information on the business travel ecosystem prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

Growth of business travel

Designer dogs might be getting smaller, but in 2020 business travel still keeps on growing.

Business travel isn’t slowing down

  • Business travel is expected to grow to $1.6 trillion in annual spend by 2020 (GBTA).
  • Business travel is expected to grow 6% between 2018 and 2019 (Deloitte).
  • U.S. travelers took 462 million domestic business trips. This figure was forecasted to rise to 499.4 million by 2022. (Statista)
  • In 2017, the United Kingdom spent $50bn USD on business travel (Statista)
  • Business travel is increasing disproportionately. When surveyed in 2018, 77% of travel managers in India expected their company to spend more on business travel in 2019. In Spain, 25% of travel managers shared the same view (Statista)
  • The proportion of women business travelers is growing. In the US, 47% of business travelers are now women (CreditDonkey).
  • Business travel accounts for 22.2% of the contribution of travel and tourism to Europe’s GDP. Business travel in Western Europe grew 4% in 2017 versus 2016 (Spendesk).

The US is getting expensive, like Switzerland

In 2018, only two US cities made the world’s top 10 list of the most expensive cities for business travel, but in 2019, the list included four US cities. Los Angeles and San Francisco joined Washington DC and New York on 2019’s top 10 list. The other six cities worldwide are: Geneva, Zurich, Paris, Reykjavik and Basel and Bern Switzerland. The US and Switzerland now have four cities each on the top 10 list. (ECA International).

Tech innovators and unicorns travel differently

Our customers are a special breed. Here are some business travel statistics from our own travel booking platform.

Disruptive tools, technology and trends

  • The number of Airbnb bookings among tech companies doubled from 2017 to 2018. (TravelPerk)
  • Millennial business travelers employed by tech companies prefer non-chain hotels and low-cost air carriers. 85% of them booked low-cost airlines in 2018. (TravelPerk)
  • Tech travelers break with company policy less than those in the consulting industry, 13% travel policy breaks compared to 16%. Combine our tech innovators focus on trust and transparency in their company culture along with their travelers’ bent towards frugality and it’s no wonder that many of them use no or loose automated travel policies.  (TravelPerk)
  • European tech companies have unusual travel hubs: Amsterdam, Stockholm, Brighton, Lisbon and Copenhagen are among their top destinations. (TravelPerk)

All stats from Travelperk business travel study.
Download our report for all of our top business travel statistics.

Why and how business travelers travel

While conferences and trade events are fun and exciting, they’re not the top reason for most business trips.

Most corporate travelers travel just once per year, with the top reason being customer visits

  • 30% of European corporate travelers fly once per month. 62% travel once per year. 5% travel 21 to 40 times per year (Fly Aeolus).
  • 44% of European corporate travelers fly to visit with a customer. 32% fly to visit another company office in a different city (Fly Aeolus).
  • Food is the biggest business travel expense. Meals account for 21% of business travel spend, while flights account for 17%. When you consider that most business trips are short distances, this makes sense (Certify).
  • In the US, personal cars are used for 81% of business trips (United States Department of Transportation)
  • Group business travel is more common than you might think. 50% of European corporate business trips are for parties of two or more (Fly Aeolus).
  • Booking a direct flight is the number one factor that influences which flight a European corporate business travel will book, with 26% of them choosing a direct connection as the top influencing factor and 19% choosing price, 23% choosing schedule convenience and 20% choosing airport location (Fly Aeolus).
Wing of a plane over clouds

Self-booking within company policy is essential for the modern traveler. And for the modern business? The ability to measure corporate travel ROI.

There’s a push to measure the ROI of travel

  • Companies realize $12.50 in incremental revenue for every dollar invested in business travel (Oxford Economics).
  • An estimated 28% of current business would be lost if business travel were suddenly cut off (Oxford Economics).
  • However, only 13% of corporate travel managers actively measure trip success rate and trip ROI (ACTE).

Travel management metrics need improving

  • 80% of corporate travel managers believe that a standard system of measurement would positively impact corporate travel (ACTE).
  • 81% of travel managers measure booking statistics like advance bookings, hotel attachment, and booking issues (ACTE).
  • Only 37% of travel managers measure travel engagement (how frequently travelers interact with the TMC or in-house travel manager) (ACTE).
  • 94% of corporate travel managers rely on a TMC or travel agency for reporting (ACTE).
  • Only 61% of corporate travel managers use traveler surveys as part of their travel management metrics collection and reporting. Surveys help gather data on traveler satisfaction and trip success (ACTE).

Self booking and mobile bookings are growing

  • 59% of US business travelers always book their hotel themselves and 30% usually book their hotel themselves (Statista)
  • In another survey, 69% of business travelers report that they book travel themselves regardless of the type of booking (Skift)
  • While desktop bookings still reign supreme, 79% of corporate travelers have completed a business trip booking on their mobile device (LCT)
  • Business travelers love live chat. 79% of travel industry businesses saw an increase in revenue when they provided live chat. (LCT)

Traveler satisfaction and concerns

Traveler satisfaction is the key to a successful corporate travel program. Take a look at these surveys into the frustrations and desires of business travelers. And don’t forget to setup your own internal surveys for your road warriors.

What travelers want

  • 80% of frequent business travelers feel that they deserve to make time for fun activities during most of their business trips. And fortunately, 79% of them feel that their boss agrees (NationalCar).
  • 86% of business travelers say that they know how to successfully manage their personal lives while away from home (NationalCar).
  • When it comes to new tech trends, 57% of travelers want a single app for all of their travel planning and booking needs.
  • 61% of travel managers have a system in place to measure their traveler’s satisfaction (ACTE).

What business travelers are concerned about

  • Flight delays are the leading concern among US business travelers. The second concern is the dreaded middle seat (Statista).
  • European corporate travelers rank the most tiring aspects of business travel like so: 27% say waiting time is the most tiring while 25% choose no direct flights, 22% say riding to and from the airport, 16% say too early departures or too late arrivals and 10% say the flight itself (Fly Aeolus).
  • The number one way to improve the traveler experience? 35% of European corporate travelers report that having to spend less time at the airport is the number one thing they wish they could improve. 23% would like to spend less time on the way to the airport. 26% want better availability of direct flights and the remaining 16% want greater flexibility with their schedule requirements (Fly Aeolus).
Business traveler in airport

Millennial business travel statistics

These days, Gen Z stats are making headlines, but when it comes to the business travel industry, millennials are currently the most valuable generation to understand. They make up the most business travelers worldwide.

Millennials are the most frequent business travelers

Most millennials are happy with their ability to self book…but are they using company approved sites?

  • 72% of millennial business travelers are satisfied with their ability to book business travel on a third-party site (Statista).
  • Hotel bookings are extremely fractured. 28% of millennial business travelers book hotels directly on a hotel’s website. 10% book hotels through an OTA like Expedia. 7% book with a third-party reseller like Kayak. 14% book with a travel agent. (Skift)

Still dealing with travelers booking business trips on consumer sites? Download our guide for choosing a business travel tool that gives travelers the freedom to book for themselves in a place you can monitor, track and control.

Millennials value free time and leisure time during business travel

  • 43% of millennials have extended their business travel trip for leisure (Statista)
  • 78% of millennials have purposefully carved out personal time during a business trip (Forbes)
  • 57% of companies have a policy in place for employees who wish to extend their business trip with vacation time (Forbes)
  • Millennial men are twice as likely to believe they should avoid having fun on a business trip, 41% versus 20% (NationalCar).

Business versus leisure travel statistics

Question: What’s the difference between business and pleasure these days? Answer: Who’s paying.

Bleisure is climbing

  • Bleisure trips grew 20% from 2016 to 2017 (Forbes)
  • More than 40% of business trips are extended for leisure purposes (Expedia)
  • Bleisure travelers are typically frequent business travelers: 32% of bleisure travelers travel for work once or twice per month (Expedia)
  • Business trips for conferences or conventions are the most likely to become bleisure trips. 43% of trips for these types of events will turn into bleisure trips, while 24% of trips for team offsite meetings and 9% of sales trips will be a bleisure trip. (Expedia)
  • 84% of bleisure trips that are less than three days take place in one city, while 20% of bleisure trips that are longer than three days take place in more than one city. (Expedia)
  • Why do business trips turn into bleisure trips? 66% percent of bleisure travelers say its because they like the destination and want to explore it. 51% said they turn business trips into bleisure trips based on the proximity to the weekend. (Expedia)
Apple laptop on a table

The proportion of business travel spend versus leisure travel spend continues to grow

  • Each year, the proportion of business travel spend grows by about .05%. In 2017, the most recent available year, business travel accounted for 30% of all travel spend in the US (Statista).
  • While business travelers typically make up just 12% of all flyers, they are twice as profitable to airlines because they are loyal and use frequent flier programs, buy amenities like extra legroom, and also book more flights with less notice (Investopedia).

First-class travel isn’t affected by the purpose of the trip

  • 19% of US travelers will board a first-class flight for leisure travel in one year, while 20% of US travelers will fly first class for a business trip in the span of one year (Statista and Statista)

Rogue bookings

There are new corporate travel booking tools on the market that can make out-of-policy bookings a thing of the past.

Do business travelers comply?

  • 60% of companies have a corporate travel policy in place, and 50% of companies allow travelers to book using any method they choose (Lodging).
  • Hotels are most frequently booked outside of the approved channel. 46% of business travelers have booked hotels on consumer sites because they found a better price (Lodging).

Ready to give your business travelers a simple booking app with plenty of powerful features for administrators and finance? Download our guide for choosing a business travel tool that gives travelers the freedom to book for themselves in a place you can monitor, track and control

COVID travel program