Face-to-face meetings slipping further into future as the confidence of business travel planners wanes

According to the i-meet.com weekly survey of over 2000 business travel planners, their confidence in starting up face-to-face meetings has moved further and further away as the weeks of the pandemic have progressed.

The i-Meet Planner Confidence Index Barometer is now in its 13th week and when the survey started on 31-Mar-2020 planners were confidently predicting that face-to-face meetings would resume in either the May-July or August-September periods, with 28% and 29% respectively. Only 8% predicted their business travel would need to be delayed until 2021.

As the weeks progressed so the confidence in getting face-to-face meetings under way started to drop back. On 30-Apr-2020 the survey revealed a change to 38% predicting the start to be in the October-December timeframe with an increase to 19% feeling the delay was more likely to be in 2021.

By 31-May-2020 that delay to 2021 had risen to 44% of respondents and now 13 weeks on things have changed considerably. This week shows that now 64% of respondents predict face-to-face meetings won’t now take place until 2021.

This trend corresponds with the latest update of International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) survey of travellers across 11 countries which has also seen confidence dropping. In April, IATA’s survey indicated that 60% of travellers were predicting a wait of just one to two months after the pandemic has subsided before travelling, while in June the percentage had dropped to 45%.

The largest share of people, (36%) now expect to fly in around six months from containment of the virus, while 14% of respondents expect to wait around 12 months – around double the share from both the February and April surveys.

Containment of the virus of course will vary from country to country but globally that is a gloomy picture with international business travel likely not to return to any great degree until 2021. These two surveys appear to support the view that while leisure travel is likely to begin to pick up in the third quarter of the year, business travel will be slower to recover and likely only from 2021.

The duty of care of companies for their employees is likely to be influencing this continuing delay as countries continue to battle the virus and talks of a second wave become louder. Leisure travellers on the other hand can take their own risks.

As highlighted last week by The Blue Swan Daily, certain sectors are likely to resume travel earlier, with those in the mining and construction sector indicating a faster return to travel.

Some conferences and events are however starting up again in various parts of the world. With the virus largely contained in Australia and New Zealand this is an area likely to begin to see signs of an early return to business travel – at least within the region. CAPA – Centre for Aviation is holding its first live event since the pandemic, taking place in Adelaide on 5-6 Aug-2020, and focusing on recovery in the region.

The Australia Pacific Aviation Summit will evolve to become a hybrid event with a live component together with a variety of international speakers beamed in from around the world. Speakers will share their insights and perspectives on the road to recovery for the region as well as for the rest of the world.

It will be interesting to hear first hand how Sydney Airport, Tourism Australia, Virgin Australia and Alliance Airlines will see the resilience of travel in the region, with additional insights from Scoot and Japan Airlines amongst others.

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