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In the two and a half years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every industry has been fundamentally transformed, from healthcare and retail to shipping and manufacturing. But one of the first industries, and one of the most deeply affected, to feel the first shock of the pandemic was travel.

Massive cancellations of flights, trains and rental car reservations in March 2020 sent the travel industry into a spiral, with business travel being the hardest hit. Prior to the pandemic, the global business travel industry was responsible for $1.4 trillion in direct spend. While spending is expected to rise 38% this year to bring global business travel spending back to over $1 trillion, a return to pre-pandemic levels is unlikely to occur until 2024 at the earliest.

To better understand the future outlook for travel in different global markets, TravelPerk used the Global Business Travel Association’s Business Travel Spend Report to rank the countries that spend the most on domestic and international business travel.

Forecasting business travel during such an uncertain time presents several challenges. GBTA’s report focused on the ability to analyze high-frequency data on flight and hotel demand and its relationship to other economic and epidemiological data. In general, business travel activity rises and falls with global production. However, there is a noticeable break in the trend in 2020, as the pandemic has affected business travel far more than overall economic activity.

This study of global business travel activity covered a total of 73 countries from 44 different industries, and the top 14 are included in this story. Russia, initially among the top 15, was excluded given the impact of the war on business travel projections.

The study includes business travel spending, productivity and growth, and considers business travel spending as domestic and international spending abroad, taking into account the origin of business travel . The sources used come from the supply side, such as airlines, hotels and car rental companies, as well as government, travel research groups and others.

The data points presented contain estimates taken from actual business travel figures for 2019-2020 and estimates taken from projected figures for 2021-2025. As part of the comprehensive list, COVID-19 data extracted from Our World in Data is included.

Since many countries are still enforcing varying levels of travel restrictions, this may make it difficult for the industry to fully recover. An updated map of the latest restrictions is available on the United Nations World Food Program’s Global Travel Restrictions website.


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