Before the Covid-19 pandemic, many people would travel to work to meet with prospective clients, attend a conference or negotiate a deal with a supplier. Then, as discussed in previous CBI Economics reports, such as Unlocking the future of flexible working, the pandemic changed perceptions of working practices and the way business is conducted.
Since that shift, research has focused on the opportunity of hybrid working, but little has been done to understand the role that business travel has to play. That’s why the Business Travel Association (BTA) commissioned CBI Economics to explore the role and value of in-person meetings and business travel to businesses and the UK economy, in the post-pandemic, hybrid-working world.
What did we do?
Through a survey of 475 business leaders across all sectors of the UK economy, this report builds a picture of the profile of business travellers in the new hybrid model, the reasons for travel and the benefits to their business.
These wider benefits are supplemented with an estimate of the economic contribution of the business travel sector to the UK economy, generated by spending on business travel, including transport, accommodation, and dining, through the activity of travel management companies. The total economic contribution is estimated, capturing not only the initial impacts of this expenditure but also the value created through the supply chain and the spending of employees. Taken together, the report builds a holistic picture of the economic benefits of the business travel industry.
What is business travel?
For the purposes of this study, business travel is a subset of travel and tourism, whereby employees travel domestically and/or internationally, as part of their job. It does not include day-to-day commuting or travel for leisure. Reasons for this travel may include meetings with clients, site visits, visiting other company offices or attending conferences.
What are the key findings?
Business travel expenditure contributed £27.5 billion in gross value added (GVA) and 283,500 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs to the UK economy in 2022.
From this, £10.4 billion GVA and 79,900 FTE jobs were a result of the initial expenditure of businesses organising travel through travel management companies (TMCs). Wider activity through the supply chain contributed £17.1 billion GVA and 203,700 FTE jobs.
The business travel sector sees a close relationship with hotel providers, restaurants, transport services and other travel agency services. In terms of jobs directly supported, the largest number is in hotel and restaurant services (27,600 FTE jobs) followed by air transport (9,700 FTE jobs).
Other key findings include:
- Whether a business is small, medium, or large, almost all have travelled for work purposes in the past year.
- The most common mode of transport for domestic business travel is private cars. However, within London, public transport is the most frequently used.
- Over nine-in-ten businesses agreed that business travel is key to building essential business relationships and knowledge sharing.
- Respondents believe business travel helps firms share knowledge, which is a key driver of innovation. Through the transfer of experience, skills and information, new ideas and solutions are created.
- Virtual meetings were the most common reason for not undertaking business travel, however, businesses reported that they do not fully replace the need for in-person meetings.
- While more business leaders, such as CEOs and Managing Directors, undertake domestic business travel, business travellers in sales and marketing roles travel the most on a daily and weekly basis.
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