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Corporates back in the air, but most will cut flights by half, says survey

Business

Most companies would quickly resume domestic and short-haul travel once border restrictions were lifted but there would be major cutbacks in how much travelling was done, according to research from Flight Centre

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The company has done extensive research on its customers since the pandemic shut down global travel earlier this year and the resulting response was that 90 per cent of corporations would resume within three months of the restrictions ending. About 50 per cent of organisations had already begun travelling, but with stipulations.

“While 50 per cent of respondents said they had employees already travelling or booking reservations to travel in the near future, resuming travel will be different for everyone,” Flight Centre said.

Its State of the Market research (April to August 2020) showed the number of trips taken would likely be lower. Only 26 per cent of businesses were planning to return to their pre-COVID-19 levels for domestic travel during 2021.

“The remaining 74 per cent of businesses predict reduced domestic travel for the immediate year ahead. Pre-COVID the average number of business trips per traveller was six to eight a year; this number is likely to fall between three to four trips per person, per year until 2023.

“Clients still have long-haul travel plans on hold indefinitely, as they assess the balance between need and safety. In particular, national businesses in USA, Australia, China and New Zealand were less likely to have long-haul international plans for 2021, indicating only domestic and short-haul international travel will be planned for next year.”

About 29 per cent of respondents from China said they would not be travelling long haul, while 22 per cent of respondents in New Zealand, 16 per cent in Australia and 7 per cent in the US indicated the same.

The industries that were continuing to travel or the quickest to resume were Mining and Wholesale, with roughly 40 per cent of respondents from those businesses saying they continued travelling throughout the global shutdown. Up to 80 per cent have already resumed travel.

In the construction and food services sector, about 70 per cent of respondents indicated that they had started travelling again.

“Across all industries, the first people to travel will be/have been sales, client management and project workforce who are focused on business growth, customer retention and the resumption of projects.

Flight Centre Travel Group managing director James Kavanaugh said the business travel landscape would continue to shift and evolve.

“While it’s positive to see such a high percentage of companies that have recommenced travel, it is clear that uncertainty will remain for some time, particularly while governments impose border restrictions or quarantine periods.  Understanding how companies are resuming business travel and what factors are having the biggest impact on their priorities will enable us to provide the best possible support going forwards.”

Companies said future travel plans would be impacted by airline, hotel, and car/ground COVID-safety protocols. About 37 per cent of respondents were reviewing their hotel suppliers to ensure they are COVID-safe and 25 per cent of respondents rated duty of care as their number one focus as travel resumes in their business.

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