‘State of the Market’ Survey: first poll reveals when customers expect to resume corporate travel

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The majority of corporates will take a phased approach to resuming domestic and international business travel over the next 12 months according to the first phase of a multinational ‘State of the Market’ study by 4th Dimension Business Consulting (4D), the consultancy arm of Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG).

A total of 1600 business travel managers, bookers and travellers in Australia, New Zealand, EMEA, Asia, and the Americas took part in the survey last month, in order to give FCTG’s corporate brands FCM Travel Solutions, Corporate Traveller, Stage & Screen and Flight Centre Business Travel greater insight into their clients’ prevailing sentiments on business travel conditions as countries emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. Clients taking part in the study spanned national businesses spending around AUD $140K per annum, to large multi-national customers with annual travel spends of over AUD$150M.

49% of participants indicated they had either already started to travel or felt they would again within 30 days or 1-3 months. However only half of respondents believe that their business travel volumes will reach pre-coronavirus levels in the near term.

The easing or complete lift of border restrictions ranked as the primary trigger for resuming business travel (70% said this would have significant impact) closely followed by organisational endorsement that it is safe to travel (68% of respondents indicated traveller safety will have a significant impact and must be reflected in travel policy).

Business travel recovery will be led by Asia and EMEA, according to survey participants in those regions.  In Asia, 50% of respondents have already begun booking domestic travel and 37% expect to resume international travel in three to six months. In EMEA, 37% of survey participants expect to travel domestically within one to three months, and 32% anticipate starting to book international trips within three to six months. This is due to faster opening of borders intra region and easer movement geographically compared to the rest of the world. The highest level of uncertainty around when domestic and international business travel will resume significantly was in the Americas with 28% of respondents saying that they did not know when travel would return.

Other notable findings in the first phase of FCTG’s State of the Market survey are as follows:

  • Corporates in the mining and construction sectors indicate the fastest return to travel: 64% of respondents in mining sector expect to travel domestically within one to three months and 69% of respondents in construction sector expect to travel domestically and internationally within the same timeframe)
  • Construction (39%), training & education (35%) and financial services (34%) sectors indicate increasing business travel within first six months, due to a shorter lead time in arranging business travel.
  • Winning new business (43% of respondents) and managing existing client relationships (39% of respondents) are the two dominant business activities motivating organisations to a return to travel.
  • While a large portion of respondents indicated a need to revamp travel policy post COVID-19, 28% of respondents were unsure what needed to change. Of those that did indicate areas for travel policy change, "health and hygiene" and "duty of care" considerations were the two dominant categories.

4D’s analysts are evaluating phase 2 of the State of the Market study among the same 1600 participants in order to review and monitor any marked variation in the first round of results whilst governments continue to relax lockdown restrictions, propose air travel corridors, or implement quarantine periods for international travellers.

“The business travel landscape and the needs of our customers have changed beyond all recognition over the last few months and business travel conditions will continue to evolve and shift as everyone comes out the other side of the global pandemic,” said James Kavanagh, Managing Director, Flight Centre Travel Group. “It’s vital that we understand if and how our clients in each market, and industry sectors will start to travel again, and their primary concerns and objectives when they do so.

“The first phase of our State of the Market survey has given us valuable insight into this process and how we can provide the best level of support. However, the whole post-COVID- 19 era is still full of uncertainties and everyone is living and working in an environment that will continue to change. This State of the Market study is therefore an ongoing research project including customer polls in phase one and two, which will be followed by further in-depth customer interviews and focus groups over the next two months,” said Kavanagh.