Covid-19: Business travel a big loser

SINGAPORE, 12 March 2020: Covid-19 continues to impact the global business travel industry, with companies cancelling meetings and instituting blanket business travel cancellations, according to the latest research conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

GBTA members routinely send their employees to meetings and events throughout the world, with the primary destinations being North America, Europe, China, and the Asian Pacific region.

To understand the Covid-19 impact on business travel, GBTA conducted its third lightning poll of membership 4 to 6 March.  GBTA received responses from more than 1,000 member companies throughout the world.

Poll key findings

More companies are cancelling or suspending business travel. Business travel to Asia has been impacted the hardest, with at least three of every four companies reporting they have cancelled or suspended “all” or “most” business trips to China (95%), Hong Kong (87%), Taiwan (79%) and other Asia-Pacific countries ( Japan, South Korea and Malaysia; 77%).

Cancelled or suspended business travel to Asia has notably increased since GBTA’s previous poll, which was conducted on 24 February 2020. Over the course of 10 days, cancelled or suspended business travel to Hong Kong increased by 19%, to Taiwan by 46%, and to the rest of the Asian Pacific countries by 71%.

Cancellations and suspensions of business travel to regions other than Asia have increased exponentially as well. Half (51%) of GBTA members report their company has cancelled or suspended “all” or “most” business travel to Europe – up from 8% as of 10 days ago. Almost one in five (18%) companies has cancelled or suspended “all” or “most” travel to North America – up from 2% ten days earlier.

Nearly a third (30%) of companies have suspended or cancelled “all” or “most” business travel to Latin America – up from 3% as of 10 days ago. In addition, almost half (47%) of companies have cancelled or suspended business travel to the Middle East, compared to only 8% who reported doing so in GBTA’s previous poll.

Many companies have instituted blanket business travel cancellations or suspensions due to the virus. More than four in 10 (41%) GBTA member companies reported that their company cancelled or suspended all international travel, regardless of the region. This is a significant increase from GBTA’s previous poll when only 7% of companies reported doing so.

GBTA member companies have cancelled on average 43% of business trips (all global regions) previously booked for March 2020 due to the virus.

GBTA member companies report they are cancelling or postponing scheduled meetings, events, and conferences as opposed to moving the event to a new venue. Nearly three-fourths (73%) report their company has cancelled at least a “few” meetings, events, or conferences, with 30% cancelling “many” such events.

GBTA members are also postponing meetings, events, and conferences due to the virus, with 74% reporting they have delayed at least a “few,” 26% have postponed “many,” and 27% have postponed “some.” Fewer GBTA member companies (29%) report they have moved meetings, events, and conferences.

GBTA member companies, particularly business travel suppliers such as airlines and hotels, are feeling a direct revenue impact. Nearly six in 10 (59%) supplier members report that Covid-19 has made a “significant” impact on their company’s revenue, and another 27% report a “moderate” impact to date.

More GBTA member companies are altering their travel policies. Over half (55%) report their company has instituted new trip approval procedures, an increase from the 43% who previously reported doing so. In addition, 62% of companies have modified their travel safety and security policies. (Only 51% had done so during the previous poll.)

Potential 2020 Business Travel Spend Revenue Loss Due to Coronavirus