Business travel and events costs to rise through 2024: CWT

businesswoman  texting on the phone , standing aganist the window,  travelling in hotel, shanghai china.

Global business travel and events costs are set to climb higher through the remainder of 2023 and into 2024, albeit at a much more moderate pace than the exceptionally steep increases seen in 2022.

This is according to the 2024 Global Business Travel Forecast, published today by CWT and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s largest business travel trade organisation.

Rising fuel prices, labour shortages, and supply chain challenges, coupled with red hot demand, caused travel prices to skyrocket in 2022 – far surpassing some of the increases outlined in last year’s forecast.

Lingering economic uncertainty and a gradual easing of supply-side constraints are expected to result in more subdued price increases over the next 12-18 months, according to the report, which uses anonymised data generated by CWT and GBTA, with publicly available industry information, and econometric and statistical modelling developed by the Avrio Institute.

“A potent combination of demand and supply-side pressures propelled travel prices higher than expected last year,” said Patrick Andersen, CWT’s CEO.

“Looking forward, prices seem to be levelling off with much milder increases projected over the next 12 to 18 months. We could now be looking at the true new cost of travel. Our focus remains on helping our customers find the right strategies and solutions to get the most out of their travel budgets, meet their ESG commitments, and maximize the ROI on their travel spend.”

“As this research outlines, it’s clear that rising costs and pricing pressures will likely continue to be a significant factor in business travel for the foreseeable future. And as we experienced over the past few years, we may also continue to see different pricing fluctuations across industry verticals, business sectors and global regions. While business travel continues to rebound, there will be a continuing balancing act among demand, cost, and ESG concerns. So, with a forecast ahead for more volatility, our goal is to provide insights like these to help travel buyers, suppliers, intermediaries and finance executives continue to understand, evaluate and adjust their business travel strategies,” said Suzanne Neufang, Chief Executive Officer, GBTA.

Air

The global average ticket price (ATP) of flights booked for business travel rose dramatically in 2022, experiencing record price increases. The ATP rose by 72.2 per cent YoY to $749 in 2022, far surpassing 2019 levels ($670).

While demand has recovered strongly with passenger numbers quickly approaching pre-pandemic levels, driven primarily by pent-up leisure travel demand, airline capacity continues to be constrained by labour shortages and supply chain issues. Looking forward, ATP growth is likely to be more modest at 2.3 per cent in 2023 and 1.8 per cent in 2024, albeit from an already high base. Still, many corporate buyers now have less leverage to negotiate with airlines, as their travel volumes remain below pre-pandemic levels.

However, in terms of year-over-year growth, the ATP in Asia Pacific climbed 148.7 per cent YoY in 2022 to $567 – the biggest increase seen in any region, despite a lack of international travel demand from China. Key business travel destinations, including Australia and Japan, fully reopened to vaccinated travellers and resumed visa exemption arrangements. Average airfares rose 75.3 per cent for Australia and 79.3 per cent for Japan in 2022, with a sharp rise in the share of long-haul tickets. As airlines in the region – particularly the major carriers from China – continue to add more international route capacity, the increased supply should help ease price pressures in the region, with ATPs forecast to rise 4.8 per cent in 2023 and 2.7 per cent in 2024.

Hotel

Like air travel ATPs, the global average daily rate (ADR) for hotel bookings exceeded earlier predictions, rising 29.8 per cent YoY to $161 in 2022. Occupancy rates have been high, but so have labour, energy, and food and beverage costs. In fact, several cities across the globe including London, Miami, and Singapore, reported their highest ADRs on record in 2022. Meanwhile, hotel construction remains down from its pre-pandemic peak, creating supply constraints. With fewer properties to compete against, existing hotels can sustain their pricing power for longer, even though ADR gains are slowing. ADRs are projected to climb a further 4.3 per cent in 2023 to $168, followed by a 3.6 per cent increase to $174 in 2024.

Ground transportation

Car rental supply has been constricted as companies sold vehicles during the pandemic when demand collapsed. As business returned, vehicles were not replaced at pace due to supply chain issues, largely due to a worldwide shortage of vehicle semiconductors which led to inflated vehicle prices. These factors have contributed to prices rising by 9.8 per cent YoY in 2022, with a further 6.7 per cent increase forecast this year. Pricing growth is expected to cool to 2.1 per cent in 2024.

Meetings and events

In-person meetings and events have rebounded more robustly than many had expected. Client acquisition and relationship building are key business goals that are not easily executed virtually. There has also been exceptionally strong demand for incentive trips, as companies seek to motivate and reward employees. In fact, CWT Meetings & Events has observed these trips becoming longer and more frequent and expects the trend to continue.

The average daily cost per attendee was $160 in 2022. This is expected to increase to $169 in 2023 and then $174 in 2024.

Lead times for events remain short in this post-pandemic world. However, organizers should now look at 2024 with a 12-month planning cycle if they want to keep prices at a reasonable level. At the same time, consolidating transient travel and M&E spend can give buyers more leverage when it comes to negotiating pricing.

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