Returning even 50 percent of business travel to the market would be a huge boost for the industry.
In Delta Air Lines' most recent earnings call, president Glen Hauenstein said the carrier's third-quarter business travel volume was about 15 percent of its 2019 level in the same period but was "trending up across all industries." Similarly, Southwest Business VP Dave Harvey told BTN that business travel, while still lagging leisure, has seen a "nice pickup" since Labor Day.
Companywide travel bans have become less common since the beginning of the pandemic, Harvey told BTN. Indeed, BTN's State of the Industry survey found just 21 percent of travel managers reported their domestic and international travel remains suspended, and 5.6 percent said only their international travel is suspended. That compares with GBTA poll numbers in late March that showed 96 percent of responding companies blacking out travel.
While travel suspensions are down, 2021 corporate travel volumes clearly aren't coming back to pre-Covid levels. Not least because travelers themselves may be reluctant. One-third of travel managers surveyed by BTN said "many" of their travelers were hesitant to get back on the road, while 11 percent said "almost all" were hesitant. Still, plenty of companies and plenty of travelers say they want to travel.
"We know from conversations and workstream, our road warriors are very eager to get back to traveling and have pent-up demand to interact with people," said Pacific Life Insurance corporate travel manager Sarah Campbell.