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Business travel on the uptick for 2022

More companies are sending their employees back onto the roads and planes.

Flying
Business and corporate travel is on the rise in 2022, according to recent stats and people in business.
Image: Andrew Weeks/Prairie Business
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Jennifer Burke Jackson was at the Denver airport when she spoke by phone with Prairie Business, a fitting scene since the topic of discussion was about corporate and business travel.

Early in the pandemic, business travel halted for many as companies found virtual ways to connect with clients and customers. The coronavirus pandemic continues, but according to national statistics and regional businesses, the travel downturn does not. Business and corporate travel seems to be ticking upward in 2022.

Some experts are calling 2022 the year of the GOAT – or the year for the “greatest of all trips.” After two years of the pandemic, people are eager to get out and experience life and culture, even if some cultures now wear a mask.

In a poll of 12,000 travelers across 12 countries, Expedia found that “U.S. travelers are embracing the GOAT mindset by seeking out excitement/exhilaration (41%) and the feeling that they have made the most out of their trip (40%). The study also found that travelers are more willing than ever before to splurge on their future travels (40%).”

Something similar seems to be happening with business and corporate travel: More companies are sending their employees back onto the roads or planes.

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Burke Jackson, principal architect at JLG Architects in Bismarck, North Dakota, said she actually has done more traveling during the pandemic than she did in a pre-COVID environment. It’s a trend that, for her, likely will continue as the year progresses.

“It's been unusual for me because since COVID began, I've actually started traveling more than I ever have for work, whereas I think a lot of other people started traveling less,” she said. “But I think that's also probably typical of people who are starting to take on new positions. There are a lot of opportunities out there right now, and I think there are a lot of new travelers to the professional world.”

In a broad view, global business travel is expected to surge 38% in 2022 over the previous year, according to the latest numbers of the Business Travel Index by the Global Business Travel Association . It said business travel activity in 2021 started to rebound “from the sharp downturn brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” after having seen a decline of 53.8% in 2020. In 2021 it was expected to rebound 14% – from $661 billion in 2020 to $754 billion in 2021. Full recovery isn’t expected until 2024, a year earlier than previously expected.

“Despite recovery setbacks in 2021, a year-over-year surge of 38% is expected in 2022 as recovery and pent-up demand kicks into a higher gear, bringing global business travel spending back to over $1 trillion,” the report reads.

Brenda K. Foster, chair, president and CEO of First Western Bank & Trust, said in a normal environment she travels from her office in Minot, North Dakota, to other points across the region 12 to 15 times a year by plane. That number is down slightly, eight to 10 times a year, by vehicle.

“I would say business travel is split fairly even between in-state and out of state,” Foster said. “Out of state travel is mostly by air but on occasion by vehicle.”

She said the pandemic hindered travel for her. Business travel by plane early in the pandemic stopped for her, while business travel by vehicle was “very minimal,” she said. “I used video [conferencing] most of the time as did most of the world.”

Additional stats from the GBTA:

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By 2024, global business travel is forecast to have made a full recovery, ending the year at $1.48 trillion or just above the 2019 pre-pandemic spend of $1.4 trillion.

In 2025, global business travel growth is forecast to slow to 4.3%, or slightly below the 10-year average growth rate of 5.1% coming into 2020.

Mike Dunn, business development manager at Construction Engineers, said the company’s market area spans some 200 miles around the Grand Forks, North Dakota, region, and with a number of projects ongoing in that expanse, travel includes multiple day trips per week by vehicle. He was unsure if this year would see him traveling more or less, but said business has kept busy during the pandemic and thus the need for continual travel.

Burke Jackson said she has not had any canceled flights over the past year and seems to be regaining more human interactions with her fellow air passengers, while Dunn said he has not had any problems booking hotels in the region.

“We have been fortunate to have a number of hotel offerings in our market, and I feel they have been doing a great job keeping their properties opened, clean, and accommodating to our team,” he said. “Prior to the pandemic we developed partnerships with lodging providers in the towns and cities in which we had projects underway for crew housing and staff needs. We continued those relationships through the pandemic and utilize local hotels today.”

Andrew Weeks is an award-winning journalist who has reported for a number of newspapers and magazines. He currently is the editor of Prairie Business, the premier business magazine of the northern plains. The magazine covers various industries and business topics in the Dakotas and western Minnesota.
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