With summer ending and the much-needed leisure travel surge waning, much of the industry’s attention and focus shifts to business travel. For true recovery to occur, the travel and hospitality industry needs to see business travel return to pre-pandemic levels. Unfortunately, the prospects for such a return do not appear good at the moment.
The Delta variant continues to disrupt the reopening of economies in many parts of the world and, indeed, some countries are grappling with previously unseen levels of infections.
The timelines for a full-time return to office, the indicator of the return of business travel, continue to get pushed back with Apple, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Google all recently announcing delays to their original return-to-office plans.
Recent STR data shows that weekday demand, an indicator of business travel, is continuing to trend downward as the U.S. enters the post-Labor Day period, when business travel traditionally picks up.
From STR’s July 2021 research among a sample of global consumers, we saw a continuation of negative sentiment toward business travel. And the negativity seen earlier in the year has become somewhat worse six months later. The latest data shows that more consumers are less likely to travel for business post-pandemic (39% in July 2021 compared with 28% in February 2021).
However, one positive note is the increase in those who stated they are as likely to travel once the pandemic is over. This shift is likely due to increased clarity regarding travel in general and clearer business travel policies for organizations compared with earlier in the year.
The negative sentiment regarding business travel was echoed elsewhere in our research. A sizeable majority of those who traveled for business before the pandemic agreed that the amount of business travel in the future was unlikely to resemble pre-COVID-19 levels.
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