After two years of reduction to less than a quarter of its 2019 size, corporate travel is expected to climb back steadily in 2022, according to Deloitte’s new corporate travel report, Reshaping the landscape.
Currently below 50% of pre-pandemic spend, the corporate travel sector faces a more complex prognosis than leisure, with growth falling far short of pre-pandemic levels at the end of the year.
Only 17% of travel managers expect a full recovery by the end of 2022, versus more than half of the respondents to the 2021 survey. The experience of the delta and omicron variants partly explains this less optimistic outlook.
Spend is projected to reach 35% of 2019 levels in Q2 2022, and 55% by the end of the year. Many of the international trips that do happen will involve a transatlantic flight.
Europe leads destinations for US-based travelers, with nearly one in four companies saying frequency will near or exceed pre-pandemic levels. Asia and Latin America follow in recovery expectations but remain far behind Europe. More than half of companies with reasons to visit Africa, the Middle East, or Oceania expect no or very little travel to those regions in 2022.
The top driver for a return to international travel aligns is sales – 43% of respondents rank sales visits among their top two reasons for sending travelers overseas in 2022. Leadership meetings (32%) and client project work (31%) follow in importance.
So, while this year will see steady gains in transient corporate travel, and barriers to international travel should continue to recede, business travel is at least two years from reaching pre-pandemic spend, as some travel use cases are expected to spur fewer trips over the long term.
Deloitte predicts that by 2023 companies should begin to settle into their post-pandemic travel norms.
That travel may look quite different however, having given birth to long-term shifts and short-term trends – demonstrating the financial savings and environmentally friendly practices realized from two years of very limited travel and the effectiveness of technology to replace a significant amount of travel , saving firms money.