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Business travel recovery in 2021 proceeded at a slower pace
than expected, particularly in Western Europe where the sector underperformed
compared to other global markets, according to regional figures from the latest
BTI Outlook by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) released last
month
.

The discovery of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron has
proven a challenge for the global recovery, particularly in Europe. Respondents
to a recent GBTA poll who are based in Europe are more likely to say they are
concerned or very concerned about the revenue impact of Omicron compared to
those based in North America (90 per cent versus 79 per cent).

European respondents are also more likely to report that
their companies have introduced new restrictions on non-essential business
travel or new requirements as a whole due to Omicron (32 per cent compared to
12 per cent in North America).

While Western Europe is projected to see a full recovery in
business travel in 2024 in line with global predictions, Emerging (Eastern)
Europe is lagging behind and likely won’t see recovery to pre-pandemic levels
until 2025.

Across Western Europe, business travel spend fell 59 per
cent in 2020, while Emerging Europe dropped by 51 per cent. This resulted in
Western Europe’s share of global spending declining from 23 per cent in 2019 to
20 per cent in 2020.

Travel bans and a spike in Covid-19 cases in the second half
of the year have plagued recovery in the region, with travel spend in Western
Europe expected to fall a further 3.8 per cent in 2021 compared to the global forecast
of a 14 per cent increase in expenditure. Emerging Europe is only predicted to
gain 10 per cent this year.

Despite a slow start, European business travel is still
expected to see a strong recovery over the next two years, as was evident in a
brief period from August to September when spending in the region began to
outpace the rest of the world.

Europe represents 10 of the top 20 business travel markets
in the world. Five of those (the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Sweden)
performed worse individually during the pandemic than the whole of Europe but are expected to recover quickly. Spain,
France and Austria proved more resilient throughout the pandemic and in the
recovery to date. Meanwhile, Russia and the Netherlands performed better
through the pandemic but are showing signs of a slower recovery.

Catherine Logan, regional vice president of EMEA at GBTA,
commented: “Vaccination rates in Western Europe are outstripping those in many
other parts of the world, however the uncertainty around the variants has
tempered recovery as Covid cases have risen sharply through the last quarter of
the year. New lockdowns and changing travel bans, border requirements and
quarantines are challenging the pace of recovery and adding risk to the
recovery forecasts. It is vital that the region has a common, traveller-based
approach to facilitate the ability to do business and to travel as we enter
into 2022.”

The 13th annual BTI Outlook was produced in
partnership with Rockport Analytics and HRS. 

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