Global business travel is expected to surge in 2022 and fully recover by the end of 2024, a year earlier than originally projected, according to the 13th annual BTI Outlook from the Global Business Travel Association, released at the GBTA convention in Orlando. The research, covering 73 countries and 44 industries, found that after a sharp 53.8% year-over-year decline in spending to $661 billion in 2020, global expenditures are predicted to rebound 14% in 2021 to $754 billion. This recovery happened more slowly than forecast in the last BTI Outlook, which was published in February. The recovery was led by North America, especially the US, with spending rebounding 27% year over year in 2021, with markets in Latin America, Middle East and Africa, and Asia-Pacific all picking up 15% to 20% growth. Europe lagged behind the rest of the world, gaining 10% this year. Survey respondents are predicting a year-over-year spending surge of 38% in 2022 as travel’s recovery and pent-up demand escalate, potentially bringing global business travel spend back to more than $1 trillion. This trend will continue in 2023, with spending rising 23% as more international and group travel returns. By the end of 2024, the numbers are expected to make a full recovery to just above pre-pandemic levels at $1.48 trillion.

For the first time, this index featured responses from C-level finance professionals and business travelers. When asked about the importance of business travel to their organization, chief financial officers felt that top return-on-investment factors are sales and business development (68%), internal business planning and strategy (50%), client account management (48%) and employee training and development (48%).

Among 400 global business travelers surveyed, 86% agreed they need to travel to accomplish their business goals. Eighty-one percent believe their volume of domestic travel will be greater or on par with pre-pandemic levels in 2022. While more than half (54%) said they miss traveling for work and hope to do so more often in the future, 43% said they would not mind traveling less, whether they indicated they miss doing so or not. Around four in five business travelers said their employer now requires COVID-19 vaccines for travel and in-person meetings. The report said the recovery of business travel depended on: the global vaccination effort; national travel policy; business traveler sentiment; and corporate travel management policy.

Also released at the GBTA convention was the Global Business Travel Forecast published by CWT and GBTA. It projected that hotel rates in 2022 are expected to increase 13% globally year over year and a further 10% in 2023. The forecast also sees year-over-year airfare rises of 3.3% next year and 3.4% in 2023 and increases in ground transportation costs of 3.9% in 2022 and an additional 3% in 2023. The report attributed rising business travel costs to growing post-pandemic demand, capacity constraints, sustainability targets and increasing labor and fuel costs.