Business Travel Outlook for 2021

As we hit the one-year mark for pandemic shutdowns, what signs of a “new normal” might be on the horizon? What will vaccine rollouts and expansions in rapid testing mean for business travel, in-person meeting attendance and more?

Of course, the present is a very fluid situation, and local restrictions, company policies, surging case numbers or new virus variants could all influence business travel and meeting attendance at any time. Surveys and recent research, though, are pointing to a resurgence in travel by later in 2021. Resumption of business travel is proceeding on a slower timeline than leisure travel, which has recovered to 50% of 2019 levels.

Here are takeaways from a recent Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) poll, released in January. It was the fourteenth poll issued by the organization since the onset of the pandemic. These polls help to gauge expectations in the current business climate.

  • 75% of respondents expect employees to attend in-person meetings and events in Q2 or Q3 2021, with nearly 90% of respondents currently scheduled to attend an event with people outside their company by Q3.
  • 87% of respondents to the poll expect to attend internal meetings or events by Q3.
  • 39% of respondents are already planning to host or attend meetings or events, while 50% have yet to start on the actual planning process, preferring a wait-and-see approach.
  • European GBTA members are slightly more bullish, with 55% currently planning 2021 events. Just over a third of American members are planning as of Q1 2021.
  • Attendance at virtual or hybrid events is expected to decline as in-person attendance resumes.
  • 90% of buyers and procurement professionals expect spend on business travel in 2021 to be lower than in 2019 as industries recover and health and safety protocols remain in place.
  • Sales meetings with customers and prospects will be a high priority in 2021.

Nearly 60% of respondents to the GBTA poll cited vaccine availability as a significant influence shaping their plans to attend events and meetings. As vaccines become more widely available, companies may relax restrictions on travel and attendance once employees have been inoculated.

At DallasHR, current plans are virtual formats for events and education, with plans to move to a hybrid event format as vaccines become more widely available. With so much still up in the air, we will continue to keep members updated with the latest trends.

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