Business Travel Recovery Now Pegged for 2026

Inflation, energy prices, supply-chain challenges and labor shortages have added 18 months to full recovery, according to the 2022 GBTA Business Travel Index Outlook.

Business Travel Recovery BTI Outlook Airport Traveler
Photo Credit: kasto for Adobe Stock

Business travel recovery has hit some headwinds, according to the Global Business Travel Association's 2022 Business Travel Index Outlook. Many macroeconomic conditions have deteriorated over the course of this year, pushing the forecast for full industry recovery from 2024 into 2026. The annual global report and forecast, published by GBTA and sponsored by Mastercard, was unveiled Monday at the GBTA Convention in San Diego.

Now in its 14th edition, the GBTA BTI is a study of business-travel spending and growth covering 73 countries and 44 industries. The new report provides an overview and outlook from 2022 to 2026.

The previous BTI, issued in November 2021, called for a surge in spending this year, resulting in full recovery to the $1.4 trillion prepandemic mark by 2024. "To understand the headwinds that have been impacting that more-accelerated recovery for global business travel, all you have to do is look at the news headlines since the beginning of 2022," noted GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang. "The factors impacting many industries around the world are also anticipated to impact global business travel recovery into 2025. The forecasted result is we’ll get close, but we won’t reach and exceed the 2019 levels until 2026."

GBTA BTI Outlook infographic
Photo Credit: Global Business Travel Association

The new report also includes insights from GBTA's recent surveys of global finance executives and business travelers, and it touches on trends and transformative factors, as well. Among the highlights of the BTI Outlook:

  • Total spending on global business travel reached $697 billion in 2021, 5.5 percent above the pandemic-era low of 2020. Last year was nearly as challenging as 2020 for the global business travel industry, though it gained back roughly $36 billion of the $770 billion lost in 2020.
  • Global business travel spending in 2022 is expected to advance 34 percent over 2021 levels to $933 billion, recovering to 65 percent of prepandemic levels.
  • Recovery this year was dependent on and has been largely driven by improvements in the four factors of global business travel recovery: the global vaccination effort, national travel policies, business-traveler sentiment and travel management policy. All of those conditions have improved significantly in the last six months.
  • Deteriorating economic conditions and shifting secular trends in 2022 have slowed global recovery; now global business travel will almost reach prepandemic levels in 2025, to $1.39 trillion.
  • Global spending is not expected to make it back to the $1.4 trillion dollar mark until mid-2026, when it is forecast to reach $1.47 trillion. This adds an estimated 18 months to the industry’s recovery, compared with the previous forecast.
  • The 2022 BTI finds the biggest obstacles to more accelerated recovery are persistent inflation, high energy prices, severe supply-chain challenges and labor shortages, a significant economic slowdown and lockdowns in China, and major regional impacts due to the war in Ukraine, as well as emerging sustainability considerations.

The full BTI Outlook, which was conducted in partnership with Rockport Analytics, is available to GBTA members on the association's hub.