Each month American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) will bring you the latest business travel trends and insights based on client research, traveler surveys, and data analysis by our Global Business Consulting experts. This research helps understanding of sentiment, new developments, and how organizations are managing their return to travel.

COVID vaccinations in North America and Europe continue are now exceeding 50% on average, and more governments are reopening their borders.
(Source: GBT COVID News Digest)

The EU has approved a travel certificate allowing intra-European travel to resume, and lifted travel restrictions for vaccinated US residents. Domestic travel continues to represent the majority of travel activity (66%) – but clients expect intra-regional and international travel to take off from September onwards.
(Source: GBT Global Business Consulting, June 2021)

Return to travel is also impacted by organizations’ decisions to return to office – we’re seeing this currently happening with some of our larger clients, led by those in banking and financial services.

Travel volumes: clients who responded to our latest check-in survey expect 2021 travel volumes to be 38% of those in 2019 – this is a 10% increase on expectations in April, signaling a growing confidence in their travel program restart.
(Source: GBT client check-in survey results, May 2021)

Travel demand continues to grow where restrictions are eased: Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint figures show US air travel over Memorial Day weekend peaked at 74% of 2019 levels. Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates where hotel restrictions have been eased, occupancy rates reached close to 2019 levels during Ramadan in May.
(Source: GBT Global Business Consulting, June 2021)

Domestic US business travel continues to grow, with bookings at their highest level since the onset of the pandemic. Growth in recovery is spreading across all industry segments, with significant positive booking trends in business and consumer services, banking and financial services, and pharmaceuticals and medical.
(Source: GBT Global Business Consulting)

Top global destinations for GBT travelers in May 2021: Dallas, Atlanta, Shanghai, Paris, Chicago.
(Source: GBT travel data)

#TravelReady policies and programs

  • Changing approval policies: 59% of organizations responding to our latest survey are introducing changes to their travel approval policies.
  • New processes: 73% of respondents are bringing changes to processes to support approval policies.
  • Increased communication: 60% have communicated to their travelers that travel can restart – this has risen from 11% in April.
  • A return to travel this year: 99% expect travel to return before the end of 2021.
  • More OBT adoption: Rising expectations of online booking tool (OBT) adoption: in Q1 clients estimated OBT adoption to be 39%. As volumes return, OBT adoption is estimated to be 63% by Q4.
    (Source: GBT client check-in survey results, May 2021)

#TravelReady industry trends 

  • Car rental supply challenges: rising prices are being driven by a shortage in supply of new car availability in high-volume categories such as compact cars. The supply of electric vehicles is lagging behind demand in EMEA.
  • Stability for sourcing strategies: There is now increasing focus and importance placed on the financial stability of suppliers when buyers are making sourcing decisions.
  • Evolving tariff and fare-class changes are raising questions for travel program managers around like-for-like comparisons, and the effectiveness and impact of their sourcing programs.
  • Technology focus: there is increased spotlight on having the right choice of OBT as a key component of safe restart of business travel, with a focus on easy-to-use mobile platforms.
  • Positive traveler feedback: GBT travelers are confident in their suppliers’ ability to protect safety and well-being; trip feedback shows travelers rating airlines and hotels with 4.5/5 for safety and well-being, and 4.4/5 for car suppliers.

(Sources: GBT Global Business Consulting, June 2021 and GBT trip feedback, May 2021)

The travel recovery path continues to fluctuate: constantly changing circumstances and the unpredictability of individual government rules and regulations continue to challenge the industry as well as corporate travel program strategies and planning.

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