Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport in London on August 2, as the United Kingdom reopened to travelers vaccinated against COVID-19. File Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE
Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Business travel spending will surge next year to over $1 trillion, but it will take another two years for the industry to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, an industry forecast released Wednesday said.
A year-over-year surge of 38% is expected in 2022, according to the new business travel index, the BTI Outlook, by the Global Business Travel Association.
The report forecasts the surge as "recovery and pent-up demand kicks into a higher gear," despite slower recovery from the pandemic than expected this year.
"Of any year we've issued the BTI Outlook forecast, this one was the most anticipated and it's no surprise," GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang said in a statement. "The business travel industry recognizes there are factors, related to COVID-19 and beyond, that could impact the road ahead over the coming years. However, there is optimism overall as the industry, companies and travelers worldwide lean into recovery and the much-needed return to business travel."
More recovery is expected in 2023, according to the GBTA, with full recovery by 2024, at $1.48 trillion in spending, which is just above 2019 pre-pandemic spending of $1.4 trillion.
Global business travel spending declined nearly 54% in 2020 to $661 billion.
It is expected to rebound 14% this year to $754 billion, which is slower than the 21% year-over-year increase it forecast in February.
The global business travel recovery that began in late 2020 slowed in 2021 to a lower rate than forecast due to COVID-19 variants, surges, "uneven vaccination rates and mounting supply chain challenges," the GBTA said.
The industry's recovery pace has been crucial for large global airlines as they struggle to return to profitability, along with hotel chains and restaurants relying on business travelers.
The United States has led the recovery this year, rebounding 27%, according to the GBTA. Business travel also picked up 15% to 20% in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa and the Asia-Pacific, but European travel lagged.