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Business Travel Industry Anticipates a Strong but Challenging 2024

The global business travel industry has put the pandemic behind it and is riding a wave of momentum at the start of 2024, according to Latest GBTA Poll.

A majority of travel buyers report increases in bookings and spending for 2023 and expect this year-over-year growth trend to continue as they also prioritise sustainable travel in their organisations.

Nearly 60% of travel buyers expect more travel in the coming year, with two-thirds anticipating increases in business travel spending. Industry professionals also expect challenges ahead, however, citing rising travel costs, overall economic uncertainties, lagging corporate budgets and travel disruptions among their top concerns. And almost half of travel buyers say the adoption of remote and hybrid workplace models has prompted them to revamp their employee travel policies and programmes.  

Over 700 business travel professionals from 41 countries participated in this 33rd poll in GBTA’s long-running series.  “The business travel industry has ushered in a new chapter and moved beyond the pandemic. As companies and travellers continue to embrace the vital role of in-person connection for business, there are strong indicators for continued growth in travel volume and spending in 2024. This bodes well for the future of our industry and its professionals – even as we navigate new challenges of ‘travel for work,’ continue to advocate for sustainable options, and evolve business travel programmes so they’re fit for purpose,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA.  

Here are some of the key findings from the January 2024 GBTA poll:    Current State of the Business Travel Industry

  • Year-over-year gains in travel volume and spending. Eight in 10 (83%) travel buyers surveyed say their 2023 global business travel bookings increased – whether significantly (31%), moderately (37%), or slightly (15%) – versus 2022. The story is similar for travel spending with 84% of buyers reporting their travel spending increased significantly (33%), moderately (38%), or slightly (13%) over the same period.   

  • Momentum is expected to continue in 2024. Most travel buyers expect their company’s business travel spending and volume to increase in 2024 compared to 2023. Six in 10 (59%) buyers expect the number of business trips will increase at their company in 2024 compared to 2023, while only 11% expect employees will take fewer business trips in 2024. At a regional level, more travel buyers in North America (66%) expect an increase in employee travel in 2024 compared to European buyers (37%). Additionally, two-thirds of buyers (67%) expect their company’s travel spend to increase in 2024 versus 2023, while only 11% expect their spending will be lower. (This is consistent with GBTA’s October 2023 poll.) 

  • Bidding pandemic considerations adieu. Over half of respondents (57%) feel it is no longer relevant to compare industry performance for 2024 against 2019 pre-pandemic levels. However, one third (32%) maintain the comparison still has relevancy for the coming year. Additionally, when asked about top industry issues anticipated for 2024, pandemic concerns landed at the bottom of the list, cited by only 1% of those surveyed. 

Considerations and Concerns Ahead for the Industry 

  • Potential challenges on the horizon. Industry stakeholders report their top 2024 concerns include the rising cost of travel (66%), overall economic concerns (46%), company budgets not keeping pace (42%), travel disruptions (32%) and geo-political concerns (22%).  Climate impact and sustainability was cited as a top concern for 2024 by 19% of respondents overall − but for European respondents, the figure is 41% versus 12% in North America. Additionally, technological advancements, including artificial intelligence, were cited by 19% of all respondents as a top concern, but figures differed between travel suppliers (27%) and travel buyers (13%). 

  • Barriers in attracting and retaining industry talent. When asked to rank five barriers to achieving a diverse, robust workforce in 2024, respondents say unappealing salary levels and benefits (53%), lack of qualified / experienced candidates (48%), lack of organisational investment in retaining and developing talent (40%), lack of attractive job roles (39%) and required hiring and training of new industry job seekers (36%). 

  • Corporate (buy-side) travel teams expect status quo on staffing levels. Three quarters of travel buyers (76%) do not expect to increase the size of their internal travel in 2024, while nearly one in six (14%) expect to add staff. Almost half of suppliers (46%), however, project an increase in staffing levels at their company in 2024. 

 How Employee Travel and Travel Programs are Evolving 

  • How hybrid / remote work is impacting employee travel programs and costs. Most industry respondents (62%) say their company has a hybrid model, allowing both work from the office and home in some form. Almost half (48%) say they have revised or plan to revise their company’s business travel policy / programme because of remote / hybrid working. Among those, 27% have already revised their corporate travel policy/programme, while 21% say they are working on it.   Top programme areas they are addressing related to remote / hybrid employees include types of meetings allowed for travel (40%) and frequency of travel to an office (32%), as well as types of transportation (26%), per diems (22%) and accommodations (20%) that is permissible and can be reimbursed. However, four in 10 (40%) respondents say they do not currently plan to alter their travel programme related to remote / hybrid employees.   When it comes to economic impact, 27% report their company’s travel programme costs are significantly or somewhat higher to accommodate hybrid / remote employees. Over one-third (37%) report no notable change in costs.

  • Why we’re traveling for business now. When asked how business travel will likely be allocated in 2024 in their company, travel buyers cite sales / account management meetings (36%, up from 28% in the GBTA January 2023 poll); external conferences and industry events (20%), and internal meetings with colleagues (20%) at the top of the list. Rounding out the list were service trips (9%, down from 14% in the GBTA poll from 12 months ago), employee training and development (7%), and supplier meetings (6%), and other types of business travel (5%).  

Methodology: 707 responses were received from travel buyers, suppliers and other industry professionals across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific for the poll fielded January 9-22, 2024.  


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