Most US corporate travel buyers expect their company’s business travel to ramp up and return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, according to the latest report from the Global Business Travel Organization (GBTA). Called “How Travel Managers Will Succeed in 2023,” the report is based on survey responses from 151 US-based corporate travel buyers.
Despite concerns about inflation and rising prices, only one in five travel managers say their companies have begun to limit business travel. Since the onset of the pandemic, however, demands on travel managers’ time and priorities have grown, including addressing traveler needs, conducting data analysis, and the increasing challenge to balance cost savings with the business traveler experience.
Key highlights from the report include:
• Recovery continues on track. Travel managers largely expect most types of business travel will reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, including domestic business travel (74%), external meetings (77%), conference/group travel (76%) and internal meetings (69%).
One in 10 travel managers, however, say they do not expect business travel volumes to return until 2025 or later, citing inflation and rising prices as the top concerns, followed by travel disruptions and a potential recession. Few feel business travel will never return to pre-pandemic levels, underscoring its importance for companies regardless of travel type.
• Business travel goes on as planned. Most companies (64%) say they are unlikely to limit business travel, although many are taking a wait-and-see approach and not seriously considering limiting business travel (36%). Only one in five travel managers say their company (19%) is already implementing a plan to limit business travel.
• Balancing cost and traveler priorities. Both travel managers (54%) and senior leadership (65%) are prioritizing cost savings, but travel managers rank traveler experience higher (51%) than executives (42%), making it more challenging to obtain buy-in to focus beyond costs. The study highlights the increased importance of addressing travel experience metrics, especially as business traveler preferences continue to evolve.
• A day in the life of a travel manager now. When asked which tasks they dedicate more time to now compared to before the pandemic, travel managers most frequently cite traveler communications / answering questions (72%) and overseeing their travel management company (TMC) relationship (59%). They also spend more time on data analysis (52%) and risk management / traveler tracking (42%). Few report they spend less time on key travel program components, demonstrating the growing complexity of managed travel programs.
• Opportunities for partners. Asked about their top TMC pain points, travel managers most commonly said agents / assistance (48%), data analysis / reporting / dashboarding (37%), and the ability of their TMC to deliver a “customized” travel program (33%). Concerning their primary online booking tool (OBT), travel managers identify end-user/traveler experience (49%), the ability to manage changes or cancellations (47%) and innovation (41%) as key pain points.