The strength of domestic demand will help aid recovery of business travel programmes in Northern Europe – one in three believe numbers will normalise within six months; one in five in just three months

At the start of this week The Blue Swan Daily reported that almost two thirds of domestic air capacity has now been recovered on a global scale and highlighted that there were examples of country markets where schedules show a year-on-year growth in planned internal connectivity. The domestic market was always going to lead industry recovery especially while so much uncertainty remains over international travel and border restrictions and quarantines remain in place.

We are already seeing a positive rise in domestic air travel, but which of the world’s largest markets are showing the strongest recovery?

New research from hospitality company Accor highlights that domestic travel is clearly leading the initial recovery of business travel and offers a positive outlook for the embattled sector, in a survey of travel managers from Northern Europe.

The late Apr-2020 and early May-2020 observations of the 122 corporate customers with operations across Northern Europe showed that one in five (21%) believed their business travel programmes would recover from the coronavirus shut-down within just three months. That rises to one in three when you consider a six month timescale, while just 7% believed it would take longer than 12 months to be back on the right path.

“The hotel industry will be gratified to hear that corporates believe their business travel programmes will recover within 12 months, with many anticipating it will happen much quicker,” says Jonathan Pettifer, director of corporate sales and TMC partners at Accor UK & Ireland.

“Face to face interactions with clients and business partners are vital in many industries and we know there is significant pent up demand from corporates wanting to get their executives back engaging directly with key contacts,” he adds.

Also, positively, the survey highlights that when it comes to hotel reservations, just 15% of corporates are planning to change the categories of properties they book in future with location (38%) and price (25%) remaining the two most important criteria for corporates when selecting their preferred hotel supplier.

However, one fifth (22%) ranked additional sanitary measures and Covid-19 protection as their top priority, while one in eight (13%) corporates explicitly said traveller welfare will be their top priority when selecting a preferred supplier in the future. The renewed importance of wellbeing sees a high majority (89%) of respondents believing their organisation will need to have an “increased focus” on duty of care as a result of the recent crisis, with two thirds (66%) acknowledging that the pandemic will lead to a “stricter approvals process for signing off travel requests”.

Another area impacted but the pandemic is the RFP process with almost a quarter of respondents (23%) having no request for proposal planned for 2021 and are instead seeking to extend 2020 rates, but complemented by dynamic pricing to achieve the best value. A further 11% plan to only review their top destinations via an RFP and extend most of their current rates into 2021. Around one in five (21%) are expecting to run a full RFP as previously planned.

Right now the business travel community is looking for reassurance and these findings from Accor paint a positive portrait for industry recovery. But, to support this process, it is vital the hospitality industry follows through on its commitment to safeguard traveller safety as sentiment can quickly change.

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