Susanna Forrest | November, 2022
Before the pandemic, the corporate sector made up a third of the travel industry’s revenue. As flight bans took hold, video meetings became the new normal, and in 2020 McKinsey reported that business travel expenses had plummeted by fifty-two percent. This spurred conversations about permanent changes to business travel, partly driven by environmental concerns. Even Boeing CEO David Calhoun was telling the New York Times he would fly less. For an industry that’s been shaped by corporate travel, a rethink was needed.
We’ve seen that in our own work. Luxury Gold, The Travel Corporation’s marquee brand, asked Evviva to rebrand them so they’d be ready when their guests returned to travel. We completed this rebrand in late 2021. And in 2022, we’ve been conducting research and brand positioning work to help Delta Air Lines find and attract more pilots and flight attendants.
This year, travel for leisure recovered healthily, and the International Air Transport Association say there will be more passengers in 2024 than in pre-pandemic years. But despite the headlines about “road warriors” returning to the business lounge and trouser press, corporate travel has had, as McKinsey put it, “an uneven recovery”. A recent Global Business Travel Association poll (PDF here) found that North American and European domestic travel bookings were at sixty percent of pre-pandemic levels and international trips at fifty percent.
Dig in at a more ethnographic level, and you’ll find both flux and some surprising new leads and opportunities for place and employer branding as well as the travel industry itself. There’s plenty more work to be done.
Overall, the “uneven recovery” is creating a more interesting landscape and certainly does not lack momentum. The Global Business Travel Association’s latest Business Travel Recovery Poll of nearly 600 corporate travel managers found that a healthy majority thought that, despite a potential economic downturn, business travel would only increase.