Business travel is back and “buoyant”, according to new data from the Advantage Travel Partnerships’ Global Business Travel Review, with the business community booking more trips and for longer periods.
Booking volumes in the UK’s business travel market, covering aviation, rail and accommodation, hit 90.8 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of this year, with business bookings for April pipping 2019 levels by 4.6 per cent.
The report, which analysed over 14 million travel transactions dating back to 2019, also found that travellers are booking business trips for longer, with the average trip duration increasing 1.1 days in 2023 to date to an all-time high of 8.2 days.
The findings come despite a cost of living crisis and soaring inflation, as well as union strikes across multiple industries, which have resulted in walk-outs at Heathrow and widespread rail closures.
There has also been concern within the aviation sector that a slower recovery in business travel, as opposed to the surge in bookings for holidays, could hamper airlines’ profits when the summer period comes to an end.
But airlines will be reassured by a significant growth in business class travel, higher than all other cabin classes and making up 18.7 per cent of total bookings in the first 5 months of the year – a 3.6 per cent increase on 2019.
Guy Snelgar, global business travel director of The Advantage Travel Partnership – a major partnership of travel agents – said: “The headline that the travel recovery remains strong, despite current global economic uncertainty and high travel prices, is great news.”
“This matches reports from Advantage members of a buoyant business travel market, particularly in the SME space,” he said.
Snelgar added that the “steady increase” in the average length of trip supported the idea of a rise in “more productive business trips that deliver greater value for a company.”
“People are booking further in advance, travelling for longer and spending more on travel than ever before, which is incredibly positive news to report and confirms the value that our industry brings to the global economy,” Chris Lewis, founder and CEO of travel data firm Travelogix, which also contributed to the report, said.