Optimism about the return of business travel has reached its highest point since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report from the Global Business Travel Association finds.
According to GBTA, three in four buyer and procurement respondents feel their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel in the current environment, thanks in a large part to the vaccine rollout and the introduction of vaccine passports.
Three out of four respondents believe distributing government-issued digital health passports is either a “very effective” or “effective” in facilitating the resumption of business travel. Only one in 10 view the issuing of digital health verification as “ineffective,” “very ineffective” or are “unsure.”
By region, 86% percent of European respondents, 90% of respondents from the United Kingdom and 89% of Canadian respondents say issuing digital passports is effective compared to just 73% of respondents in the United States.
On the supply side, over half (54%) of supplier respondents report in increase in bookings from corporate customers within the past week compared to just 40% in GBTA’s April poll.
Overall, more than half (52%) of supplier and travel management company respondents say they feel more optimistic about business travel’s recovery compared to a month ago. Two in five, 41%, say they feel the same, and just 7% say they feel more pessimistic.
Although suppliers and travel managers are enthusiastic about demand returning, many are facing staff shortages.
According to GBTA, three in four (77%) suppliers and travel managers say their staff is “much less” or “less” today compared to before the pandemic.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
Almost half of respondents believe their company will face difficulties hiring staff due to a dearth of qualified candidates (47%) or a hesitance among prospective hires to work in the travel industry (46%). Other anticipated obstacles include candidates wanting to work remotely (35%) or vaccine verification (15%).
Looking ahead over the next six months, the majority of suppliers and travel managers (62%) expect staffing at their company to increase moderately or significantly. One in four (27%) expect staffing to remain the same.
Among those respondents who expect their staff to grow, approximately half are concerned it will be difficult to find qualified candidates as many have left the travel industry. Additionally, more than half (54%) feel it will be difficult to hire qualified candidates due to competitors also restaffing.
Staffing issues and concerns over meeting travel demand are plaguing businesses across all corners of the travel industry: In hospitality, a recent survey from the Hospitality Asset Managers Association reveals availability of staff as a top concern for asset managers followed by customer demand and labor costs.
Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton, recently said that the issue is “constraining recovery at certain times” because hotels can’t secure enough staff to service properties.
Additionally, a recent study from the Castell Project finds that Black employees lost share of hospitality industry employment during the pandemic.