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Corporate leaders expect business travel to bounce back

Neu-Isenburg, July 6 2021

The uppermost management of companies believes personal contact with customers and suppliers to be just as essential now as it was before the coronavirus pandemic. Business travel for internal company meetings is becoming less important, by contrast.

The coronavirus pandemic made business travel much more difficult, and people turned to virtual meetings to fill the gap. Much of that is over now. Some 80 percent of the CEOs and top managers surveyed by AirPlus International believe personal contact with customers and suppliers remains essential – just as many as before the pandemic, when the last survey was conducted, in November 2019. This indicates that business trips will return to being an important part of business for many companies. That is the result of a recent survey conducted by the corporate payment provider among about 750 board members and managing directors worldwide.

Top managers are also concerned about not losing out to the competition. In response to what the three most important topics are for their companies right now, pressure from competitors was the second most cited factor, following the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and ahead of health and hygiene measures due to the pandemic. The last time this information was collected, in 2019, pressure from competitors was ranked fourth. On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic brought declines in sales revenue at many companies while also pushing up costs, an effect that 59 percent of top managers surveyed report seeing. They are now pushing a process of recovery and catching up, with hopes of returning to a more visible presence with customers.

Some 48 percent expect business travel to return to higher levels than in 2019

The great importance of personal dialogue with buyers and clients prompted nearly half of those surveyed to respond that they believe business travel will rebound over the next two to three years to levels even beyond those seen in 2019. Among those who expect more travel, 79 percent cited this as a reason for the increase in business travel, while 85 percent pointed to general growth in sales. Nearly one-third (31 percent) of all respondents believe the number of trips will return to at least the pre-pandemic level in the medium term. Still, there are also factors curbing this trend as well. One in five of the top managers surveyed expects to see fewer business trips than in 2019. For one thing, many are skeptical about the further course of the pandemic. Four-fifths give this as a reason for their views. About three-quarters of those who expect there to be less travel also see improvements in technical infrastructure, and especially videoconferencing, as a reason to replace in-person meetings. Business travel has also become less important for internal company purposes, as top decision makers report across the board. While 73 percent of those surveyed do say personal meetings are essential to dialogue among colleagues, that figure is down from 79 percent before the pandemic, in 2019.

There are already signs of a significant upturn in business travel. European AirPlus customers alone took more than one-third more trips by plane in May of this year than the previous month, and the figure stands out even more sharply compared to the same month of last year, at nearly five times higher. To pinpoint this information, AirPlus analyzed the bookings settled via the payment service provider. AirPlus surveyed a total of 743 top managers in Germany, the U.S., the UK, China, Italy, and France, including CEOs, CFOs, and heads of sales, for this survey in June.

About AirPlus International:

AirPlus International is a leading international provider of solutions in the corporate payment segment. 48,000 corporate customers rely on AirPlus when it comes to paying for and analyzing their business travel and other purchasing activities. The company’s products and services are marketed worldwide under the AirPlus International brand. AirPlus is an issuer under the UATP and Mastercard card schemes. The AirPlus company account is the most successful billing account within the UATP. For more information, visit

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