Doubts grow over business travel rebound, survey finds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 12:00am

A survey has found a more than threefold increase in those who believe business travel will never return to pre-September 11 levels.

The survey, by the International Air Transport Association (Iata), an organisation of the world's 280 largest airlines, found that a level of realism had settled on the expectations of regular business travellers.

The level of optimism for a rebound in corporate travel remained high, but more people now expected a recovery to take longer.

The survey interviewed more than 100 business travellers in Europe, the United States and the Asia-Pacific in June.

It was a follow-up to a similar survey in September last year, immediately after the terror attacks.

The latest survey found nearly three-quarters of regular business travellers believed their travel patterns would be returning to normal within the next year.

But in the September survey, about 57 per cent had said they expected normality to return within six months.

Now 71 per cent expect it would take a full year for things to return to normal.

Most remarkable was the more than threefold increase in those who believed business travel would never be the same. In September, only 3 per cent felt that way.

But Iata has found that 10 per cent now express the view that 'business travel would never return to normal'.

In the latest survey, company travel budgets were expected to remain stable over the coming year, with 12 per cent of respondents describing an increase and 73 per cent saying there would be no changes.

In September, more than one-third of business travellers were expecting a decrease in travel budgets.

The survey found the relationship between budgets and the level of air travel was closely linked, implying companies were asking employees to travel less.

But 12 per cent of business travellers expected their travel budgets to decrease more than the number of flights made, indicating an underlying pressure to obtain cheaper flights.

When asked to recommend ways to encourage more corporate travel, 41 per cent replied: 'Lower fares.'

That compared with 35 per cent of respondents telling Iata this in January and 25 per cent in November last year.

Security concerns have eased, with only 16 per cent mentioning increased security as a way to encourage more travel, compared with 31 per cent in January.