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Webexpenses: Return to travel

Is business travel back? What our data tells us.

Back in June, we made predictions based on our expense system data and analysis of vaccination rates. Combining our system data with vaccination rates, we predicted that business travel would return to pre-pandemic levels in October of this year.

So, were we right? Let’s take a look at what our latest expense data tells us and what it might mean for business travel in 2022.

Is business travel back?

As predicted, our data is now starting to match pre-pandemic levels. Prior to the pandemic, travel was easily accessible. Without hesitation, businesses could travel to different destinations via car, train, and air. How much closer are we to reaching this?

In 2019, from June to October 2019, we saw:

  • Webexpenses users submitted 107,597 mileage claims
  • Totalling 38,725,107 amount of miles

During the same period in 2021, as restrictions were lifted:

  • Webexpenses users submitted 114,638 mileage claims
  • A total of 34,380,996 miles

Comparing October 2020 to October 2021:

  • Mileage claims increased from 13,853 to 24,213
  • A total of 7132108 miles

Comparing 2021 to 2019, travel is now at 89% of where it was pre-pandemic! Moreover, the individual trips made (mileage claims submitted), increased by 7% versus pre-pandemic business travel. And, if we compare this October to last (mid-pandemic), total miles claimed increased by 32%, while mileage claims have increased by 75%.

According to stats, business travel is back! And show a positive outlook for business travel into 2022.

What has driven the increase in business expenses?

Since June, COVID vaccination rates have continued to increase, influencing the return of international travel. In the US, inoculation rates are nearing 70% - and children over the age of 12 are now fully eligible. 81% of Brits over the age of 12 have been full vaccinated. This has allowed double-jabbed travellers to travel more freely.

Then, on November 9, the US opened its borders to the UK, China, India, Brazil and most of Europe for the first time since its closure in March 2020. Soon after the announcement, flight bookings reached 70% of pre-pandemic levels, with 52% being attributed to international travelling.

US Washington Airport

Over in the UK, borders opened to 37 additional countries. Since then, flight bookings for UAE travellers rose by 30% after the UK approved the Sinopharm vaccine.

And it’s not just international travel that has made a comeback.

The return of face-to-face events has driven the increase in travel claims. Businesses are interacting with prospects, attending meetings, and already planning for next year’s schedule in person.

 ASD Market Week in Las Vegas

We’ve also seen hotel bookings surge:

As business travel returned, so did office life. Businesses began to reshape expectations of hybrid working. Now, more employees are travelling to and from the office - whether that’s 2 or 5 days a week.

As a result, UK commuters returned:

Commuters in London

What's next for business travel?

Improved technology and safer environments have allowed employers and employees to become comfortable travelling once again. Soon after restrictions were lifted in June, the return of socialising indoors, busy airports, and keen shoppers, started to meet pre-pandemic levels.

Now, big scale events have returned and borders are beginning to reopen across the globe. This milestone has seen an increase in flight bookings and the demand to travel is only expected to flourish into 2022.