While business leaders may anticipate a recession this year, travel managers are anticipating more business travel, according to the Q1 Business Travel Outlook Poll from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).  The poll showed that 78% of managers expect their company will take a lot more (22%) or more (55%) business trips in 2023 than in 2022. Only 15% expects to see the same levels of business travel as last year, and 7% expect fewer or a lot fewer trips.

An overwhelming 90% of respondents believe their employees are willing to travel for business, while 88% report feeling more optimistic about the path to recovery compared to last month.

Suzanne Neufang, CEO, said that the return of business travel will vary across regions, sectors and companies. And despite ongoing global concerns of a recession, she said, a majority of corporate travel managers indicate their companies are anticipating more business travel than last year, In other findings:

• Travel suppliers expect more business travel spending by their corporate customers in the year ahead. Almost nine in ten suppliers (86%) expect spending by corporate customers in 2023 will be much higher (26%) or somewhat higher (60%) compared with 2022. (This marks an increase from GBTA’s October 2022 poll where 80% of suppliers expected spending to increase.)

• Nine percent expect corporate business travel spend to be about the same, and only 1% expect spending to be lower than in 2022. (In the October poll, 15% expected the same level of spending and 5% expected lower spending.)

• On average, travel buyers estimate their companies’ current domestic business travel bookings have returned to 67% of pre-pandemic 2019 levels (up from 63% in GBTA’s October poll). Travel buyers estimate their company’s current domestic business travel spend is back to 68% of their 2019 spend levels.

• International business travel continues to gain ground. (In January 2022, international business travel remained virtually at a standstill, with 59% of travel managers saying their company never or rarely allowed these trips.) In this poll, on average, travel buyers estimate international business travel bookings have recovered to 54%, up slightly from 50% in October. Current spending for international trips is back to approximately 58%.

• While many travel suppliers emerged from the pandemic with fewer staff, the same has rarely happened with travel programs. The majority of buyers (78%) say their company’s travel program staff size in 2023 is expected to be about the same (56%) as it was pre-pandemic or will be much or somewhat larger (22%).

• Many buyers also expect to increase spending for their travel program operations (such as staff salaries, technology, and consultants) in 2023 versus last year. Almost half of buyers (45%) expect their travel program budgets will be higher, while 41% expect them to be about the same as in 2022.