The recovery of global business travel spending to pre-pandemic levels is likely to be delayed by 18 months to 2026 due to factors including persistent inflation, high energy prices, labor shortages and lockdowns in China, a new industry forecast shows.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) said business travel spending recovered 5.5% to $697 billion in 2021, with North America leading the recovery but remaining well below 2019’s $1.4 trillion level.

The recovery forecast is more pessimistic than the last GBTA forecast released a year ago, when it expected a full recovery to 2019 levels by 2024.

Considerations of environmental sustainability and the regional impact of the war in Ukraine are also influencing travel demand, the forecast says.

“Factors affecting many industries around the world are also expected to influence the recovery of global business travel by 2025,” GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang said in a statement.

“The projected outcome is that we will approach, but not reach, or exceed pre-pandemic levels of 2019 by 2026.”

Global Business Travel Group Inc, owner of the world’s largest corporate travel agency American Express Global Business Travel, said last week that revenue this year is expected to average about 65% of 2019 levels, although that does not include the impact possible recession.

Airlines and hotels are counting on strong demand for vacations to help fill the gap created by reduced corporate travel during the pandemic.

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