Ariel Cohen, TripActions
"We have this belief that next year will see bigger numbers than 2019 because of the sales teams plus the new type of travel because of remote work."
Quote from Ariel Cohen, CEO at TripActions, in a story on PhocusWire this week about changes to the business travel landscape.
Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered by PhocusWire that week.
Business travel needs a little bit of love at the moment.
For all the talk of the daft and PR-fashioned "revenge travel" mantra and pent-up demand, these are still elements perhaps better placed in the leisure category.
Numerous travel brands are proclaiming how bookings are picking up as countries relax their COVID-19 restrictions and, two years on from the onset of the pandemic, millions of travelers will be attempting to pick up on where they left off in 2020.
This is a good sign, for obvious reasons, as the industry embarks of reclaiming some of its lost revenues from two years in the doldrums.
But business travel still, whether its leaders will admit it or not, faces an uncertain future.
Amex GBT disclosed this week that, in the last week of February 2022, transaction volumes were at 51% of 2019 levels, and total transaction value was at 45% of 2019 levels.
This is not the return of business travel by any stretch of the imagination - it's just an illustration that just half of companies in its portfolio of clients are putting their employees back on the road.
Other travel management companies may be seeing different metrics, perhaps why Ariel Cohen of TripActions is so confident about 2023.
The sector needs the major corporations that typically place hundreds - maybe thousands - of room nights and air tickets on the books to come back with a vengence.
The long-standing - well, 18 months or so - theory is that travel managers and their beancounter colleagues in large companies are far more discerning now about whether a trip that was taken in the happy years of 2018 and 2019 is worth their resources in 2022 and beyond.
Sales teams may, of course, mobilize once more and there will be regular get-togethers of co-workers that are now located in disparate parts of the world.
But, alongside, the unease that companies have about reigniting the travel schedules of their staff (both for financial and practical reasons) is the unsettling elephant in the room of recovery: conflict in Europe.
Although currently localized in the Ukraine-Russia-Belarus region, military action anywhere in the world has a tendency to make people and their employers nervous.
A swift resolution to the Ukraine crisis will be extremely welcome from a humanitarian perspective, most importantly, but a prolonged conflict will not be what the industry - especially corporate travel - needs if it hopes to capture the recovery trends that it desperately wants.
PhocusWire's editorials examine a trend or development highlighted in an article during the week.