July 25, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

A survey of 100 Australian corporate travel decision-makers by Cvent points to business travel eclipsing 2019 levels this year, both in terms of travel volume and budget, while Flight Centre’s Corporate Traveller arm says business trips are getting longer.

Cvent’s research, undertaken by Censuswide in June, surveyed decision-makers with offices in Australia and overseas, with respondents coming from all states and territories except the ACT. Decision-makers represented a variety of industries, including the engineering, construction, finance, manufacturing, IT, legal, travel and retail sectors.

With 99 per cent of respondents currently sourcing hotels for their companies’ travel programs, 74 per cent expected the number of hotel stays booked to be greater in 2022 than the last full non-pandemic year in 2019. South Australian travel managers were the most optimistic with 83 per cent expecting growth on 2019 levels in 2022 while, across the country, no respondents believed there would be a decrease in travel volumes this year compared to prior to the pandemic.

Reasons given for increased travel included business growth and business development and reduced pandemic disruption.

The survey checked on attitudes towards corporate travel in a pandemic context and found travel managers were still monitoring the status of COVID in travel destinations and considering employee sentiment as part of their travel policies. Overall, virus rates in destinations had the largest impact, with 55 per cent of respondents saying this had the most significant influence on travel policies, followed closely by employee feedback on travel readiness at 54 per cent.

Cvent’s research also found 42 per cent of travel managers were asking hotels about their meeting space, while 29 per cent wanted more outdoor space and the same percentage wanted to know about COVID testing at hotels. Health and safety protocols and flexible rate negotiations were the highest on travel managers’ list of needs from hotels, at 51 per cent and 44 per cent respectively.

Unsurprisingly the largest consensus on increased travel volumes is for domestic travel, with 87 per cent of decision-makers expecting that to increase in 2022. However, in terms of international destinations, super long haul travel is more popular than visiting our nearest neighbours, with 77 per cent of respondents predicting a rising in travel to Europe and only 51 per cent expecting the same for Asia. Only 20 per cent of decision-makers are expecting greater travel to the Americas. Both domestically and internationally travel managers from Western Australia are the keenest.

According to those surveyed, budgets are generally expected to increase, with 75 per cent of respondents believing this would be the case. Only five per cent of decision-makers expected budgets would decrease in 2022, compared to 2019.

Aside from the growth in travel volume, travel managers also attributed increased budgets to the impact of inflation on travel costs.

The research also noted that 99 per cent of travel managers sourced meeting and event space for their organisation, with large events – both internal and external – being the top two types of events these managers were sourcing venues for, both over 60 per cent of events being planned.

Flight Centre’s travel management provider for small and medium sized businesses, Corporate Traveller, says data from its business bookings from January to May this year shows trip lengths are more than doubling, for both domestic and international trips, compared to 2019.

For domestic business travel, the average trip length has increased from 1.1 days in 2019 to 3.09 days in 2022. For international travel the increase is even greater, going from an average of 3.4 days in 2019 to 8.7 days in 2022.

Corporate Traveller data also provides proof of the domestic travel bounce back, with the Gold Coast singled out as a particularly busy port, with April flights between the Gold Coast and four Australian destinations, including Australia’s two largest cities, all increasing on pre-pandemic benchmarks.

Aside from businesses being keen to get back to face-to-face interactions with stakeholders, Corporate Traveller’s global managing director, Tom Walley, believes increased trip length may also be related to the travel delays and disruptions that have been making headlines this year.

“Businesses will likely continue increasing the length of their trips to account for potential delays and other disruptions,” he said.

“International flight capacity has been slower to return than domestic and I expect business trips will increase by around one to two days further over the next year.”