Verdict has conducted a poll between June and August 2020 to assess how long it would take for business travel to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Analysis of the poll results shows that business travel will take a year or more to return to normal. The sentiment worsened in July and August, compared to June, even as the global lockdowns were being eased and hopes of a coronavirus vaccine emerged.

Respondents who felt that business travel will never return to normal gradually increased from an average of 15% in June to 19% in July and 23% in August.

In June, an average of 32% of the respondents voted that business travel will take more than a year to return to normal. The sentiment didn’t improve much through July and August, with average responses being at 33% and 31%, respectively.

Further, respondents who expected the recovery to take between seven and 12 months declined from an average of 18% in June to 17% and 16% respectively in July and August.

On the other hand, the percentage of respondents who felt that business travel will take four to six months to return to normal averaged at 17% over the three month period, while those who hoped for an even quicker recovery in one to three months averaged at 15% over the three-month period.

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COVID impact on business travel

The analysis is based on 15,659 responses received from readers of Verdict community sites between 21 August and 07 September.

COVID-19 impact on business travel: Long road to recovery

The business travel industry accounted for 21.4% of the global travel and hospitality sector in 2018. The industry is also one of the most volatile to economic recessions and disruptions in travel patterns, according to McKinsey & Company. During the 2008 global financial crisis, business travel declined by 8% and did not redound to pre-recession levels until five years compared to just two years for leisure travel.

The recovery for business travel is expected to be slow and only return in phases depending upon the proximity of travel, sector, and reason for travel. Travel managers are monitoring infection rate, government rules, and other public health indicators to decide on the need for business travel.

Demand for regional and domestic business travel will return first compared to international business travel.  Further, business travel in sectors that have been the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to take a longer time to recover. The demand is expected to expand in sectors such as life sciences where travel is essential, according to the World Economic Forum.