The latest Business Travel Tracker finds American companies increasingly trimming back pandemic-era restrictions on business travel amid developing high inflation and a looming recession.
Many companies slashed their business travel budgets during the pandemic, but less than half of companies (42%) still have policies in place restricting business travel — down from 50% in Q2.
Businesses have shown a willingness to get back on the road, with 78% of business travelers expecting to take at least one trip to attend conferences, conventions, or trade shows, according to the survey. And 75% of respondents are expecting to visit customers, suppliers, or other stakeholders in the next six months.
But the U.S. Travel Association’s forecast projects that business travel’s growth cannot be sustained in the long term, leading to a decline in the coming quarters.
In addition to the Business Travel Index, two separate surveys of corporate executives and business travelers form the Quarterly Business Travel Tracker, a product of the U.S. Travel Association, J.D. Power, and Tourism Economics.
The new survey data arrives as economists in the U.S. and around the world sound the alarm about worsening economic conditions. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon cautioned that “very, very serious” headwinds — including inflation, rising interest rates, and the ongoing war in Ukraine — were likely to tip the U.S. into a recession in the next six to nine months.
With many economists and business leaders anticipating a mild recession in 2023, companies may look for ways to limit investment and travel spending, delaying a full recovery in business travel activity — as reflected in the forward-looking Business Travel Index.
In the face of this slowdown, certain federal policies can help offset these headwinds and spur the recovery of business travel. The U.S. Travel Association is calling on Congress to support temporary tax provisions that would encourage companies to restore business travel spending, particularly spending that supports workers in the food service and entertainment sectors.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of State should take steps to reduce visitor visa interview wait times to facilitate more international business travel, which have crept to over 440 days on average from top source markets.
“Business travel is coming back slowly, and these policies will be essential to keeping employees on the road and helping still-recovering companies weather an oncoming recession,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.