The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s largest business travel association, has released the results of its latest COVID-19 Member Poll.
The survey – the 14th such poll by GBTA since the onset of the pandemic to measure the impact on business travel – finds that a majority of respondents are optimistic that the travel industry will begin to rebound in mid to late 2021 and that the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine is top of mind for many business travel professionals.
“What we’re seeing in this latest poll is a number of reasons for the business travel industry to be optimistic about 2021, especially toward the middle
of the year,” said Dave Hilfman, the interim Executive Director of GBTA. “As the vaccine rollout gains momentum and if we see a corresponding drop in positive COVID-19 test results, this survey suggests something of a return to personal connections and in-person meetings and events in the business space.”
Key findings include:
•Three out of four respondents expect employees to attend in-person meetings/events in Q2 or Q3 2021, with 89% of respondents set to attend an in-person meeting or event with attendees outside their company by Q3 2021.
•87% of respondents expect to attend internal company meetings or events in person by Q3 2021. As attendance at in-person events increase through the year, attendance at hybrid meetings is expected to decline as 2021 unfolds.
Expected Return of Employee Attendance at Meetings and Events
Q1 2021 Q2 2021 Q3 2021 Q4 2021 2022 Not Sure
In-person meetings or events with attendees outside your company
14% 34% 41% 5% 2% 3%
Internal company meetings or events held in-person
22% 38% 27% 4% 1% 8%
Hybrid meetings/events (in-person and remote attendees)
48% 27% 14% 2% 0% 9%
•Three in five (59%) of GBTA members say vaccine availability is a ‘significant’ factor in their company’s decision to resume business travel. One in four (23%) say it is a ‘moderate’ factor, while one in ten (14%) are unsure of the impact the vaccine will have on the resumption of business travel.
•Despite the vaccine being rolled out in the US and Europe over the past few weeks, many GBTA member companies remain largely unsure about their company’s position concerning vaccine availability and the resumption of business travel, according to the poll. Half (54%) report they are unsure about their company’s position, whereas one in five (20%) say their employees will be permitted to travel for work when the employee and a significant portion of the population have been vaccinated. An additional one in five (16%) employees will be permitted to travel for work once a significant portion of the population has been vaccinated. One in ten (10%) say their employees will be permitted to travel for work when they have been vaccinated.
•Two in five (39%) GBTA members/stakeholders report their company has begun to plan hosting or attending meetings and/or events for 2021, while half (50%) have yet to start, and one in ten (11%) are unsure of their plans.
•55% of GBTA members and stakeholders in Europe say their company has begun planning 2021 meetings and/or events, while 36% of North America respondents said the same.
•Of those who report their company is planning to host/attend 2021 meetings and/or events, more than half are planning to host/attend small to mid-sized meetings or events with up to 500 attendees.
•Buyers and procurement professionals expect 2021 business travel spend to be lower than it was in 2019. Nine out of ten (90%) say 2021 business travel spend will be lower compared to 2019 and only 5% expect 2021 travel spend to be the same as 2019. Broken down by region, 98% of buyers and procurement professionals based in Europe and 90% in North America expect 2021 business travel spend to be lower than it was in 2019.
•When asked where travel savings would be made, comparing travel spend in 2019 versus 2021, travel buyers and procurement professionals estimated that there would be a decline in the percentage spent on internal meetings, conferences and trade shows (regardless the amount of funds allocated for 2021 business travel), but an increase in percentage spent on sales meetings and service trips with current and prospective customers.
Average Business Travel Spend Allocation by Event Type*
Event Type 2019 2021
Conferences, trade shows, and industry events
Internal company meetings with colleagues 21% 15%
Sales/account management meetings with current or prospective customers
Service trips (such as repairs, training or equipment installation) with current customers
Employee training and development
Other 6% 8%
Total 100% 100%
* Percentages rounded to nearest whole number
GBTA conducted a poll of its members across the globe from December 7-13, 2020. A total of 760 responses were received.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organization headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. GBTA’s 9,000-plus members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA delivers world-class education, events, research, advocacy and media to a growing global network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts. To learn how business travel drives lasting business growth, visit www.gbta.org.