The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) released its annual BTI Outlook, a detailed analysis of business travel in 2020, with projections for 2021 and beyond. The BTI Outlook covers business travel spending and growth covering 75 countries across 48 industries.
According to the study, the true global financial impact of COVID-19 began in Q2 2020, resulting in an expected 68% decline (to $738 billion) from April 1, 2020 to the end of the year. Because of the relatively strong pre-COVID first quarter of 2020, global spending on business travel is expected to show a 52% decrease to $694 billion for all of 2020, down from $1.4 trillion in 2019.
GBTA’s BTI Outlook noted that global GDP is expected to have declined -4.4% in 2020, an unprecedented decline when compared to the -0.5% decline experienced during the Great Recession of 2008. Coming into 2020, business travel had grown for 10 consecutive years, with an average growth rate of 5.1% per year.
The impact of COVID-19 on business travel has varied by region, with North America leading the way with a 60% decline for the full year 2020. Western Europe was second at 58%, followed by Eastern Europe (50%), Latin America (45%), Asia Pacific (44%) and Middle East/Africa (39%).
The 2020 business travel spending losses are expected to be 10 times larger than the impact of either 9/11 or the Great Recession of 2008.
Moving to 2021, the BTI Outlook projects a 21% increase in business travel spending. Most of this gain is expected to come at the end of 2021 as vaccinations increase globally and consumer confidence returns.
In 2022, the BTI Outlook forecasts further acceleration in business travel, including a significant pickup in group meeting activity and international business travel.
While annual business travel spending growth is expected to slow somewhat in 2023, it is projected to remain well above historical average rates of growth of 4.6%. By the end of 2024, annual business travel spending is projected to reach approximately $1.4 trillion, nearly equaling the 2019 pre-pandemic revenue peak of $1.43 trillion.
A full recovery to pre-pandemic levels is expected by 2025.