News of Effective Vaccines Renews Optimism for a Return of Travel and In-person Events in 2021

November 19, 2020

Half (50%) of GBTA travel buyer and procurement professionals feel their employees are ‘willing’ or ‘very willing’ to travel for business in the current environment. Only one in five (22%) GBTA members feel their employees are not willing, demonstrating a strong readiness to resume business travel.

Recent announcements of potential, effective vaccines with 90%+ efficacy rate in clinical trials, has increased sentiment among GBTA travel buyer and procurement professionals that their company will be more likely to allow business travel and employees to attend in-person meetings in 2021. Three in five GBTA members say their company would be ‘likely’ (44%) or ‘very likely’ (16%) to allow business travel with this prospect, while one in five (19%) are neutral (i.e., neither likely nor unlikely). Only 10% say their company unlikely and are 11% unsure.

When asked about government restrictions, the majority of GBTA travel buyer and procurement professionals feel there should be an exception to mandated quarantine requirements for international business travelers, who take short-duration business trips that involve meeting with only a few people. Six in ten (58%) respondents are interested (with 28% ‘very interested’) in seeing this proposal adopted. This figure is significantly higher in Europe with 66% interested in this proposal compared to 55% in North America.

GBTA travel buyer and procurement professionals believe their company would be willing to implement a policy to encourage employees to download a ‘track and trace’ app for business travelers to assist with contact tracing efforts. Half (49%) feel their company would be ‘willing’ or ‘very willing’ to encourage employees to download such an app, while one-third (35%) think their company would be neither willing nor unwilling to do so. GBTA respondents based in Europe (62%) are more likely than members based in North America (44%) to say they think their company would be willing to encourage downloading contact tracing apps.

When asked about the timescales around a return to 2019 levels of business travel, six in ten (60%) European buyers expect domestic business travel to take 4-9 months to reach at least 50% of 2019 levels. In addition, half (50%) expect regional business travel to take 4-9 months to reach at least 50% of 2019 volumes. Long-haul business travel is expected to take longer to reach at least half of 2019’s level, with six in ten (63%) European buyers/procurement professionals expecting it to take between 10-24 months.

Among non-European buyers, half (58%) expect domestic business travel to reach at least 50% of 2019’s level in the next 1-9 months whereas expectations for international travel will take longer with 54% expecting it will take 10-24 months to reach at least 50% of 2019’s level.

“The news of a vaccine has been well received among our members with an uplift in activity as the industry collaborates to find a safe and responsible return to travel. Adhoc government restrictions continue to be the main deterrent and GBTA continues to advocate for a unified approach across the world,” commented Dave Hilfman, Interim Executive Director GBTA.

Travel suppliers throughout the industry have introduced new safety standards and protocols as a result of the pandemic. These include service changes (e.g., flight reductions), policy changes (e.g., eliminating change fees) and new sanitation practices. Communication campaigns have been key in alleviating fears. GBTA travel buyer and procurement professionals perceive communication campaigns from airlines (84%), hotel sectors (78%), ground transportation (52%) and travel management sectors (51%) as being effective.

View the entire poll results here.

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About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.