Business travel snaps back with conferences driving demand

Demand for business travel is rebounding quickly across the globe with conferences a key driver in the surge, according to two new surveys.

The latest research by SME travel management company Corporate Traveller showed conference attendance the key reason for their travel.

The survey of 535 businesses found that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of SMEs travel to attend conferences, indicating an appetite for events as the last remaining Covid restrictions are being removed. Over half (54 per cent) of businesses travel to conduct sales or conduct or attend training (chosen by 51 per cent of respondents).

Face-to-face meetings are still proving to be valuable, with 44 per cent of respondents revealing they travel for board or executive meetings, while a third (36 per cent) travel for internal meetings.

Larger SME businesses are more likely to travel for meetings, with 53 per cent of respondents in companies with more than 200 employees travelling for board and executive meetings and 41 per cent travelling for internal stakeholder meetings. This compares with 34 per cent and 18 per cent (respectively) of small businesses with 2-19 employees travelling for the same reasons.

“After prolonged periods of restrictions, and as we come out of two years of remote working and virtual meetings, face-to-face communication will be an important part of the recovery and growth of the business sector,” said Tom Walley, global managing director at Corporate Traveller.

“An increasing proportion of businesses will gradually resume domestic, then international, travel for meetings and events. Corporate Traveller has seen a significant increase in domestic travel bookings in 2022, and we’re seeing a similar pattern now Australia is open for business once again.

“The anticipated business appetite for events and conferences will give the events industry (who are SMEs themselves) the confidence it needs to recover, make networking possible again for businesses, boost business travel further and help economic growth.”

B2B travel management platform CWT has also seen a significant increase in travel to and from several countries that have recently relaxed testing and quarantine requirements for international travel.

In the UK, CWT booking data shows weekly bookings for outbound international travel have increased 115% since the country announced that it would scrap testing for fully vaccinated travellers from February 11. Inbound bookings soared 169% compared to the week before the announcement.

It’s a similar story in India where outbound bookings climbed 64%, while inbound bookings are up 139%, following the announcement that vaccinated travelers from 82 countries would no longer need to show a negative test result or isolate starting February 14.

In Norway, which went a step further and put an end to testing for all travelers—including those who are unvaccinated—with immediate effect on February 12, weekly outbound and inbound bookings have risen as much as 72% and 67%, respectively.

“The strength of pent-up demand for business travel is clear,” said CWT’s CEO, Michelle McKinney Frymire.

“We are seeing the highest levels of business travel since the pandemic began and, while traveller health and safety must always remain the number one priority, removing hurdles and uncertainty will be key in achieving a full recovery.”