A Return to In-Person Events

While business travel in the near term still remains uncertain, one thing that is clear from new research from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is that in-person events will come back.

The GBTA reports that a majority of its companies expect their employees to return to in-person events, meetings or conferences in 2021. Nearly half (45 percent) said that they believe these events would start up in the first half of the year, according to GBTA’s latest poll, taking place September 15-19, 2020. Twenty-five percent of employees expect a return to in-person events in the second half of 2021.

Companies also say they are preparing to host in-person events in the coming year. Thirty-seven percent are expecting to host some or many meetings or events in the first quarter. That number rises to 61 percent in the second quarter of 2021. An average of one in four GBTA members indicated that they still remain unsure and are taking a “wait-and-see” approach.

There is not as much confidence in a return to the office as there is in one-off events. Twenty percent of GBTA companies said that they are returning in 2020. One in three plan to return in the first half of next year, and 28 percent say they will return as early as the first quarter of next year. One in five are still undecided about returning to work, and 16 percent have already returned to the office.

One of the most motivating factors for returning to the office or to in-person events is a vaccine for COVID-19. Half (52 percent) said that an effective vaccine for COVID would have the most influence on their planning process.

Managed travel is now a necessity for many companies. The GBTA research showed that half (48 percent) of GBTA companies say their senior managers value a managed travel program “much more” or “more” than they did before COVID-19.

“While there is no doubt the current global uncertainty around a second wave is delaying the return to business travel, the outlook for 2021 is looking more positive with companies planning a return to face-to-face meetings and events. It is encouraging to see businesses planning their return to office in a careful and safe way,” said Dave Hilfman, the interim Executive Director of GBTA.

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