Airplane flying over modern business skyscrapers, high-rise buildings. Transport, transportation, travel. Sun light on blue sky.

Although business travelers have been returning to the road more quickly than many experts predicted during the depths of the pandemic, a slowing economy has many companies tightening their purse strings, creating yet another hurdle for the transportation and travel industries as 2022 was coming to a close.

Technology companies, in particular, have announced significant layoffs in recent months. Housing lenders have also been reducing staff amid rising mortgage rates.

When the pandemic almost completely halted business travel in 2020, some analysts predicted the industry would never fully recover. But business travel did come back. As the economy reopened, companies realized that in-person meetings do serve an important purpose. In a survey taken in late September by the Global Business Travel Association, corporate travel managers estimated that their employers’ business travel volume in their home countries was back up to 63% of pre-pandemic levels, and international business travel was at 50%.

International business travel is lagging, in part, due to some corporate restrictions on high-priced business-class airline tickets for long-haul flights, requiring travelers to take cheaper connecting flights or to fly nonstop in premium economy or regular economy class. Many business travelers are not particularly fond of this policy.

Looking ahead to 2023, experts say the impact of pandemic travel restrictions will decrease. A survey by Tourism Economics, U.S. Travel Association and J.D. Power released in October found that 42% of corporations had policies in place restricting business travel, down from 50% in the second quarter. Over half expected pandemic-related travel policies to be re-evaluated in the first half of 2023.

Meetings designed to “build internal culture” at corporations and association-related events are fueling optimism in the short term, with some experts optimistic those trips will recover more quickly than individual business travel. Despite continuing uncertainty, many experts agree corporate travel will probably remain tepid until the end of the first quarter of 2023. They also expect destinations like Nashville, Miami and Tampa, Fla. – where business travelers often add on leisure time (aka “bleisure”) – to see the fastest return to pre-pandemic numbers.

Source: The New York Times

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