Business travel budgets rising as firms use 2019 as spending benchmark -CWT By Reuters

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© Reuters. A meeting room outfitted with airtight glass panels is pictured at short-stay facility Connect@Changi, a complex of hotel rooms and meeting halls near the airport which will welcome business “bubble” travellers from March, as part of the city-state’s effo

By Jamie Freed

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Business travel budgets are poised to rise in 2023 as companies benchmark against pre-pandemic levels of travel spending despite growing uncertainty over the economic outlook, a senior executive at global corporate travel agency CWT said on Tuesday.

“Even 2022, this calendar year, is going to be discounted to some degree,” CWT Chief Customer Officer Nick Vournakis said in an interview, noting COVID-19 restrictions in some regions impeded travel. “I don’t think we’re going to get back to a comparison of year over year until we’re in 2024.”

He did not provide details of client budget forecasts for 2023 but said businesses recognised that inflation would be a key factor in travel spending next year.

CWT and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) last month said airfares are expected to rise by 8.5%, hotel rates by 8.2% and ground transportation by 6.8% in 2023 as an industry hit by labour shortages and input cost increases rebounds from pandemic lows.

“If you’re looking at it from a pure financial perspective, I think what we continue to see is more and more corporates budgeting for growth in their travel,” Vournakis said, citing strong demand for meetings and events.

“I haven’t seen anyone overly wary with regards to recession in how they are travel planning for 2023,” he added.

CWT’s business has returned to nearly two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels and should reach close to 70% by the end of the year, with a full recovery expected by the end of 2025, Vournakis said, slightly ahead of GBTA’s latest forecast for a 2026 recovery.

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