When can we expect international business travel to recommence?

The future of business travel is still unknown

If you didn’t like travelling before, I’m sure you do now—purely because we aren’t allowed to do it. There has been much speculation surrounding international travel and when it will be back on the cards. So, when can we expect international travel to restart? The truth is—Trans-Tasman bubble aside—nobody knows. Until we can manufacture and distribute a vaccine worldwide then travelling with confidence and to the peak standard of 2019, nothing is for certain. But as the situation stands, The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) revealed that we won’t be seeing any international travel until the end of 2021 at the earliest, but one in 5 experts can’t see progress happening until at least 2022. Some don’t even believe travel will be back before 2023!

What does this mean for business travel? Unfortunately, it’s not looking good. An article from McKinsey & Co suspects that leisure travel will be returning far before corporate. While this is good news for your family holiday, it’s not so good if your executive needs to travel for meetings and events. Health-risks aside, COVID-19 has also wreaked havoc on the economy and we’re yet to experience one of the worst economic downturns in history.

Eric White, general manager at Chrome River, said that while corporate travel is crucial to maintaining a competitive edge in the global market, the corporate travel budget is often one of the first things to be slashed during an economic downturn. Especially in the modern day when virtual options make it easy to adapt to border closures and restrictions, hence why corporate travel will have a slow return. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said it usually takes about 5 years for corporate travel to recover after a recession. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said, “For some of our big destination like the United States and the UK, it’s going to need a vaccine given the high prevalence of the virus in both of those locations.”