Business travel continues to rebound in the United States and Europe, but faces headwinds that may limit the segment’s upside for the foreseeable future. Those are among the conclusions found in the third edition of Deloitte’s corporate travel study just released.
The report finds that while leisure travel in the United States and Europe reached pre–COVID-19 levels months ago, corporate travel has been slower to return. Still, the study found corporate travel decision makers expect spend across the United States and Europe to shoot to 57 percent of 2019 levels in the first half of 2023, and surge to nearly three-quarters of the pre-pandemic mark by the end of the year.
In both the US and Europe, travel managers expect similar trajectories from 2022 through 2024, with about a quarter (24 percent) of companies predicting their travel spend to exceed three-quarters of 2019 levels in the first half of 2023. That figure more jumps to 53 percent by the second half of 2023. 
Nevertheless, although full recovery to 2019 spend levels could come by late 2024, after taking into account the impact of the current inflationary trends, the corporate travel market will be between 10 percent and 20 percent smaller in real terms than it was prior to the pandemic. 
As travel resumes, travel managers face higher air fares and room rates, tougher supplier negotiations, and sustainability mandates, meaning that the number of trips will likely still lag further behind.
In this environment, the Deloitte survey finds the biggest drivers of the expected continued increase in travel are the growth of live events and easing of restrictions. US respondents expect international trips to account for 33 percent of 2023 spend, up from 21 percent in Deloitte’s 2022 survey, and similar to 2019. 
European respondents said long-haul corporate trips are still lagging behind 2019 totals, with 28 percent of spend to go to trips beyond the continent, down from 34 percent in 2019.
In 2023, live events are a major contributor to business travel demand, jumping to the number one reason for US companies to travel internationally. Increased event attendance is cited by more than half of respondents in both Europe and the United States. For American companies, it is also the biggest reason for international trips.
With two-plus years of industry conferences that were cancelled or online only events, pent-up demand is playing a role in the rising interest in in-person meetings. However, it could also indication the growing importance of events as remote and hybrid work remain firmly entrenched in the corporate world. 
As the report states, “When it is harder to call on prospects and clients in their offices, conferences can offer appealing opportunities to connect.”

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This report draws on a survey of 334 travel managers and executives with various titles and travel-budget oversight in the US, the UK, Germany, Spain, and France.

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