MAJOR COMEBACK FORECAST FOR INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TRAVEL
A new survey by VistaJet indicates that 81% of global leaders say business travel will be more important than ever to driving success in the future.
Only 24 months ago, business travel was synonymous with global corporations and senior executives’ roles. During the global lockdowns, companies have experienced the direct impact of no travel or in-person meetings on their business functions and operations. In new research from VistaJet, in association with WSJ Intelligence, that impact is quantified for the first time.
For The Future of Business Travel report over 200 high-level company executives in the US, EMEA and APAC were surveyed about the essential role and value of travel in their professional lives.
During the pandemic, travel has been limited for 90% of companies surveyed, and almost all (97%) said their businesses experienced negative impact directly related to those restrictions. Nearly one-quarter (24%) indicated massive or substantial disruptions across all eight areas measured, and 87% cited massive or substantial disruption in at least one area. More than a third (37%) said international business development and product launches took a hit due to a lack of in-person presence.
As restrictions ease, built-up anticipation for business travel is clear, with 81% saying business travel will be more important than ever to driving success. Among respondents who take eight or more private flights a year, 60% plan to significantly increase in-person meetings.
VistaJet has seen a surge of 49% in corporate interest around the world since the start of the pandemic, confirming that flying private continues to be a key support for business travel. The main benefits of taking private flights for business travel are reported by those surveyed, in order, as flexibility, efficiency, safety and privacy. The two top priorities for trips are visiting partners and vendors and going to industry events, each at 34%. Managing current relationships and building new ones are also key drivers.
The return to business travel largely hangs on regulations — 46% of respondents are waiting for destinations to reopen; 42% want updated COVID-19 data and rules for destinations; 36% seek support in case COVID-19 regulations change during a trip; and the same number await relaxation of their own company’s travel policies.
Ian Moore, Chief Commercial Officer, VistaJet said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the world, including travel. It also showed that some business travel is truly essential and having to forgo in-person trips came at a real cost to companies. Additionally, it is hard to read a room when everyone is in individual windows on screen — misunderstandings can occur, especially across cultures, and these in turn can become costly mistakes.”
AIR CHARTER SERVICE SEES STRONGER RECOVERY FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL THAN EXPECTED
Air Charter Service (ACS), for its part, has released a statement claiming the company has seen global private jet business travel booking numbers for the first quarter of 2021 reach 76% of 2019 levels – exceeding its original forecast.
This suggests that the recovery of business travel is progressing to such an extent that bookings could increase beyond ACS’s prediction of eventually resuming to 85% of pre-pandemic levels this year.
Following a devastating past year for the travel industry as a result of Covid-19, this higher than expected figure signifies an encouraging step in a better direction for business travel-associated industries. Whilst business travel bookings were at their highest in the company’s history at the start of 2020, booking numbers evidently dropped dramatically between April–June. At the height of the pandemic in April 2020, booking numbers dropped to as low as 27% of ‘normal’ 2019 levels but have since improved dramatically.
Andy Christie, Group Private Jets Director at Air Charter Service, comments: “At the start of this year, we predicted that numbers would return to approximately 85% of the levels of business travel bookings that we saw during ‘normal’ times in 2019 – so, not to its full extent. However, looking at Q1 figures, it is clear that we are actually on track to exceed this prediction. ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a real thing and clients are realising that Zoom is just not the same as face-to-face business meetings.”
“We expect that non-essential meetings will not take place as often as they used to but business travel will continue to improve in 2021, as soon as restrictions on quarantine are eased and vaccines distributed more widely. As for leisure travel, booking numbers for April 2021 have actually increased by 25%, when comparing to 2019 levels. As global travel restrictions are easing, this increase proves just how much people are keen to book trips abroad.”