Business travel is lining up for departure, but indications are it’s in for a longer taxi to takeoff.
Signs of recovery for the sector are evident, with Lyft CEO Logan Green saying on Tuesday (Nov. 2) during an earnings call with analysts that “airport rides nearly tripled year over year in Q3.”
Uber will release Q3 2021 financials after the bell on Thursday (Nov. 4).
That adds to other recent upbeat pronouncements, such as Delta CEO Ed Bastian reporting during the airline’s Q3 earnings release in mid-October that “business travel has picked up over the last month, with volumes now reaching the highest level we’ve seen in the recovery. In the last week, our domestic business volume was close to 50% restored.”
For the hospitality view, industry news site Hotel Management reported that Hilton Worldwide Holdings’ Q3 earnings were “up 132 percent year over year and down 14 percent compared to 2019,” with “August and September RevPAR [revenue per available room] at roughly 80 percent of 2019 levels driven by continued strength in the leisure segment and an improvement in business travel after Labor Day as offices and schools reopened.”
Hilton President and CEO Chris Nassetta said, “Increases in vaccination rates and consumer spending coupled with improving business activity continue to drive solid travel demand.”
Other positive signs include American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) completing its acquisition of corporate travel management platform Egencia from Expedia Group on Nov. 2.
In a statement, Egencia President Mark Hollyhead said, “Becoming part of an organization totally focused on business travel will accelerate Egencia’s growth and amplify what we do best — offer technology-driven solutions that address the ever-evolving needs of business travel and its many stakeholders.”
Travelers are eager to resume pre-pandemic travel routines. The latest in PYMNTS Pandenomics study series, The Post-Pandemic Consumer At 18 Months: Spending Now, Worrying Later, found that nearly 30% of health-concerned consumers intent to dine out more “and travel in the U.S. more in the next three months.”
Corporate Travel Rebound in 2022 Looking More Likely
While the general mood around business travel is rapidly improving, actual travel volumes may lag the optimism, but that’s an unknown at present.
Travel industry news site Skift recently quoted United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby as saying, “Business demand (won’t) start in earnest until January of 2022. From my perspective, the long-term recovery remains on track with the opening of Europe, Australia and Singapore and an expected inflection point in business demand is now anticipated in January.”
With more corporates itching to get out and see clients after 20 months of pandemic restrictions and video conferences, however, business travel is outlook is undeniably improving.
According to a new study conducted for the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), “global business travel spending is expected to rise by 26 percent [in 2021] and by 34 percent in 2022, implying a recovery to 66 percent compared to 2019. In a few regions, business spending growth is set to be faster than leisure spending this year,” especially in the U.S. and Asia.
Additionally, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) said that “October also saw an increase to 66% of those polled who said their companies are allowing non-essential domestic business travel and, in a high for the year, 42% international travel, while more than half of suppliers (55%) say their bookings from corporate customers increased from last month.”
Looking to airports themselves as a prime bellwether on business travel, PYMNTS recently reported, “SSP Group, which operates foodservice sites in airports and railway stations in 35 countries, on Wednesday (Sept. 29) announced that its revenues in the last week were roughly 53% of 2019 levels,” adding that “third-quarter revenues increased to 27% of 2019 levels, resulting in second-half revenue of 37%” and projecting nearly 50% in Q4.