Neu-Isenburg, February 13, 2023
The comeback of business travel is expected to continue in 2023 now that the Corona pandemic has waned globally, helped by the tailwinds from China's relaxation of travel regulations. Corporate payment specialist AirPlus International reveals the most important travel trends in the AirPlus Business Travel Index.
An evaluation of the transactions for airline tickets processed via AirPlus shows how the habits of German business travelers have changed. These trends are also likely to shape business travel in 2023:
1. More business class
When people travel, they often do so in greater comfort: With a share of 13.6 percent, business class tickets were more popular in 2022 than in 2019 (9.3 percent), especially on domestic flights (11.5 vs. 4.7 percent).
Germans thus flew more comfortably than most of their European neighbors* (business class share in Europe: 10.7 percent).
While business class seats were more popular during the pandemic due to social distancing, they are now seen as a way for companies to show their appreciation to traveling employees after two difficult years.
2. Longer trips
Germans are also taking more time for their business trips: An average business trip lasted 6.1 days last year (2019: 5 days). Trips within Germany took an average of 3.1 days (2019: 2.5 days), in Europe 4.7 days (2019: 4.1 days) and outside Europe 13.6 days (2019: 11.6 days). One-day short trips, which accounted for 16.4 percent of business trips in 2019, declined significantly to 6.8 percent in 2022.
Trips also started on a weekend more often - an indication of the "bleisure" trend, i.e., combining a private trip with a business trip. 16.3 percent of airline tickets were for a Saturday or Sunday. In 2019, the proportion was 12.4 percent.
Another explanation for the longer duration is companies' efforts to make travel more sustainable, with some choosing to combine multiple business appointments into one trip instead of taking shorter individual trips.
3. New and old favorite destinations
China is likely to rise the ranks again in the favor of travelers following the easing of travel restrictions. Until the start of the pandemic, the Middle Kingdom had classically occupied 2nd place on intercontinental routes, directly behind the USA. Last year, China was overtaken by India, while the U.S. retained its pole position. In recent years, India has steadily gained importance as a business travel destination after ranking 5th in 2019.
Japan simultaneously displaced Russia from 3rd place as a destination for German travelers. In view of the war in Ukraine and the associated sanctions, the situation for Russia as a travel destination is unlikely to change for the time being.
In Europe, the UK remained the most important destination for German business travelers last year despite the now more complicated entry regulations in connection with Brexit. Spain made a leap forward during the pandemic, ranking 2nd in 2022 only slightly behind the UK (2019: 5th). This is explained by the fact that air travel to Spanish destinations is difficult to substitute with travel by car - unlike Austrian destinations, which slipped from 2nd place (2019) to 3rd.
4. More expensive tickets
Since last year, companies have had to dig deeper into their pockets for business travel. However, a slight downward trend has been observed for economy class tickets since September. Ticket prices for intercontinental flights have also been falling since October.
An economy ticket cost an average of 519 euros in 2022 (2019: 433 euros), and 3313 euros (2019: 3016 euros) for business class. While Germany's prices for Economy Class were roughly in line with the European average (510 euros), Business Class was slightly cheaper (3606 euros in Europe).
Normalization in advance booking period and gender distribution
Some trends and habits that had emerged during the peak of the pandemic returned to normal in 2022. For example, the advance booking period for tickets was 22.3 days, similar to 2019 levels (24 days), after companies booked on much shorter notice in 2020 and 2021.
In addition, the proportion of women traveling was 18.8 percent last year, identical to 2019. That number had fallen to 15.6 percent in 2021. Compared to the European average, business travel in Germany is thus still slightly more dominated by men (81.2 vs. 79.8 percent).
In all countries surveyed, female travelers booked slightly earlier than their male counterparts. In Germany, the deadline was 23.5 days for women and 21.5 days for men.
Oliver Wagner, CEO of AirPlus International, is optimistic about the 2023 business travel year: "Just like virtual communication tools, business trips are increasingly part of our everyday working life again in the post-Covid age. Face-to-face exchanges remain the basis for building and expanding business relationships. With the lifting of most travel restrictions worldwide, we expect business travel to continue its recovery.
The big issues here remain sustainability and digitization. People are traveling more consciously: Instead of taking several short trips, for example, people are combining different dates within one longer trip. When it comes to payment, companies are increasingly relying on modern, contactless methods that are as uncomplicated as possible. In this way, they help their travelers to focus solely on the purpose of the trip."
* The European AirPlus core markets of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy and the United Kingdom were analyzed.
About AirPlus International:
AirPlus International is a leading international provider of corporate payment solutions. 49,000 corporate customers rely on AirPlus for the payment and evaluation of their business trips and other purchasing services. The products and services are marketed worldwide under the AirPlus International brand. AirPlus is an issuer of the UATP and Mastercard card schemes. The AirPlus Company Account is the most successful billing account within the UATP. For more information, visit www.airplus.com.