We are always looking for signs as to how the pandemic is impacting mobility and how re-entry will play out as vaccine rollouts continue and infection rates decline. Well, here is some optimistic news shared by Reuters that taps into data from the Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) BTI Outlook survey. While global business travel dropped 52% in 2020, it is expected to climb 21% by the end of 2021. 

In a previous report from the Wall Street Journal, the idea that the pandemic's impact on business travel would linger for years into the future was predicted:

"Beyond the blows to airlines, hotels, travel agents and rental-car companies, the drop in business travel is rippling through whole ecosystems of related commerce, including airport shops, downtown bars and restaurants, construction companies building convention stages, entertainers, taxi drivers and aircraft-parts manufacturers."

While most companies are forecasting that business travel spend is expected to bounce back quite a bit in 2021, the recovery will be gradual due to a slow start for global vaccination efforts, ongoing restrictive travel policies in many nations, lagging business confidence and unprecedented debt levels — all of which will delay economic growth. Many are predicting that most of the bounce-back will happen in the second half of 2021, with the first half looking more like it looks today.

Looking out further into the future, the BTI Outlook forecasts business travel will pick up plenty of steam in 2022, including a significant pick-up in group meeting activity and international business travel. By the end of 2024 and heading into 2025, annual business travel spending is projected to reach approximately $1.4 trillion, nearly equaling the 2019 pre-pandemic revenue peak of $1.43 trillion.

There is an alternative whispering that says these projections will never come to reality, and that business travel has likely been impacted forever by the new habits of having to work around the pandemic for more than a year now. More people working from home, more acceptance (and maybe even a shift to preference) of virtual meetings, the impact to budgets and need to save money and the fact that virtual meetings are more sustainable to the environment than traveling will all reinforce that lack of ability to tell your CFO that you "need" to travel to accomplish an objective. That CFO response is more likely to be that "there's no travel cost, no travel time lost and no carbon emissions, right?" 

Based on how you see things unfolding, how does the travel outlook tie to your mobility program projections?