There are positive indications that business travel continues to turn the corner on COVID-19, especially over the past month, as concern about Omicron begins to wane and global travel restrictions loosen, according to the latest survey from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). Also on the rise are business travel volume expectations for the year ahead, as well as employees’ willingness to travel and to blend business travel with leisure time.

Responding companies also expect to be heading back to the office, at least for a few days a week, and many of them are facing headwinds in hiring and retaining qualified workers. Suzanne Neufang, CEO, said the industry “is entering into the next phase of global business travel — one of thoughtful recovery — and our recent research reflects that shift.” With safety and health remaining at the forefront, said Neufang, “we are moving into a more endemic way of managing the pandemic, step by step. And we’re defining and creating what will be needed for the ‘next normal’ in global business travel — for the industry, businesses and travelers.”

Among the survey results:
• More than three in four (78%) supplier and travel management company professionals currently feel optimistic about the business travel industry’s path to recovery, up from 54% who reported being optimistic in the January poll.

• The percentage of respondents who report that nonessential domestic business travel is sometimes or usually allowed increased to 73% in February, compared with 66% in January.

• More than four in five (82%) poll respondents feel their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment, compared with 64% in the January survey.

• Among those surveyed, most (68%) anticipate they will want to travel about the same amount as (55%) or more than (13%) they did before the pandemic in the future. Almost an additional third (30%) say they want to travel “somewhat or much less” than they did before the pandemic.

• When it comes to entry requirements for international visitors, almost half (46%) feel current restrictions are “just right” and around one-third (34%) feel requirements are either “too strict” or “much too strict.” Support for proof of vaccination is strong (76% support or strongly support), but much lower for mandated quarantines (67% opposed or very opposed) and travel bans (62% opposed or very opposed).

• Travel managers were asked if they think their employees are interested in extending work trips to include a leisure component compared with before the pandemic. Most (82%) think their employees are equally interested (53%) or “more/much more” interested (29%) in combining business travel with leisure.