Business travel is still two years away from reaching pre-pandemic levels, according to a new report from Deloitte called “Reshaping the Landscape: Corporate Travel in 2022 and Beyond.“ The report concluded that corporate travel faces a complex prognosis, with many companies continuing to reassess employee travel, combined with ongoing uncertainty around international relations and additional COVID-19 variants. Among the takeaways:

  • Travel spend will see steady increases. Travel spend is expected to reach 36% of 2019 levels by the end of the second quarter of 2022, increasing to 55% by the end of the year, and 68% by the end of 2023.
  • Variants grounded plans for a swifter return. While one-third of travel managers surveyed in June 2021 expected to reach half of 2019 spend by the end of the year, only 8% reached that mark. Two-thirds said the Delta and Omicron variants caused them to push back travel return timelines.
  • Remote workers will embark on more headquarters trips. As a result of flexible work arrangements, 1 in 4 respondents expect more trips to company headquarters, despite less frequent travel overall.
  • Industry events slowly became a bigger draw. The return of live industry events is now among the top five reasons for business travel, providing renewed opportunity for suppliers in, to and from event location hot spots.
  • International travel for business remains slow to take off. Though some restrictions are easing, international travel for business still accounts for only one-quarter of 2019 spend. One in four respondents expect frequency of travel to Europe to be near or exceed pre-pandemic levels this year. Asia and Latin America remain far behind in recovery expectations.
Eileen Crowley, vice chair, US transportation, hospitality and services attest leader for Deloitte, said that as the pandemic situation continues to improve, business leaders have new factors to consider when determining which trips justify the time, expense and carbon emissions involved. Bottom line and environmental priorities, she said, will be supported by technology and behavior changes brought on by two years of mostly virtual meetings and events. Tech platforms, said Crowley, “will continue to void the need for some trips long after the public health crisis abates.”