Reiterating that nothing can replace face-to-face interactions, the U.S. Travel Association has compiled a new report, "Getting Back to Business Travel," to provide members and businesses within the broader travel industry with data, case studies and a projected timeline for the industry’s recovery from pandemic losses.
In short, the pandemic has stalled a decade of travel growth, which jeopardizes the nation’s economic recovery. Business travel spend will improve, but slowly and painfully, according to the report. Total annual spending for the sector is projected to be $141 billion in 2020, sharply down from $334 billion in 2019. A significant rebound, with spending above $300 billion, is not expected until 2024. Overall, travel spending in the United States in 2020 is projected to be $617 billion, a 45 percent drop from the $1.13 trillion spent in 2019.
In creating the report using data from a number of travel and meetings organizations, such as the Center for Exhibition Industry Research and the Global Business Travel Association, U.S. Travel hopes to inform lawmakers of the importance of business travel and meetings to the overall the economy, American jobs and U.S. trade, and provides suggested actions to accelerate recovery.
While domestic leisure travel has picked up slightly, business travel — in line with previous crises — has a long way to go before matching its previous record-high levels. A consensus among the business community and the travel industry projects recovery could begin in Q2 2021 at the earliest.
Among challenges for the business travel sector, per the findings:
- Federal protocols and inconsistent state ordinances on event size caps and distancing guidelines;
- Uncertainty about international border openings;
- Corporate policies restricting business travel;
- Increasing reliance on technology and hybrid events; and
- Changing traveler sentiment.
Business travel is expected to return in four phases:
- Employees return to their offices;
- Small meetings within driving distance resume;
- Overnight travel, requiring hotel stays and flights, picks up; and finally,
- Large gatherings such as trade shows, conferences and conventions are held, including those with international attendees.
The U.S. economy and American jobs cannot wait three years for its recovery, U.S. Travel emphasizes in the report. Without the right policies and strategies to revive this critical sector, recovery of the economy and jobs will remain stagnant.
Download the full report here.