Corporate travel was resurgent heading into the summer 2022 holiday hiatus as companies found themselves released from the shackles of Covid. “From mid-February we saw an exponential growth in demand when the UK border reopened and restrictions fell away,” says Pat McDonagh, CEO of travel management company Clarity. “That was a surprise.”
But will that recovery persist once bikinis, buckets and spades have been packed away and business travel heads into its traditional September-November peak? Or will a series of political, economic and environmental “headwinds”, as McDonagh describes them, slow demand and perhaps even blow it into reverse?
The answer is complicated. There is little doubt that underlying demand remains strong. “Travel is coming back much faster than we all thought because of the sheer amount of people wanting to enjoy the human connection again,” says Yvonne Moya, global head of travel for the Netherlands-based human resource services firm Randstad. “We are almost back to 2019 levels, which was never the plan.”
Among Clarity clients, business travel recovery varies quite sharply by sector. Legal and professional services are still 40-50 per cent below pre-Covid levels, while academia is 20 per cent down. Engineering and heavy industry are now only 0-10 per cent lower, and elite sport travel is tracking ahead of 2019 volumes.
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