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Global business travel pricing set to increase in 2022

November 17, 2021

Flight prices expected to rise 3.3%, hotel rates 13% and ground transportation 3.9%

MINNEAPOLIS, November 17, 2021 – Global travel pricing across air, ground, and hotels, is expected to increase in the next two years, primarily driven by increasing demand, capacity constraints, and travelers’ sustainability demands, plus increased labor and fuel costs, according to the seventh annual Global Business Travel Forecast published today by CWT and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).  

“Business travel recovery is underway, and it is really great to see people reconnecting and engaging once again, as the world returns to a more traditional pace of life,” said CWT Chief Executive Officer, Michelle McKinney Frymire. “While the best-case scenario for 2022 is for further recovery of business travel across all areas, not all markets, nor all categories, will recover at the same pace, so business travel managers will need to understand what to expect as we look at the year ahead.”

Released today by GBTA, the voice of the global business travel industry, and CWT, the B2B4E travel management platform - the 2022 Global Business Travel Forecast uses anonymized data generated by CWT and GBTA, with publicly available industry information, and econometric and statistical modelling developed by the Avrio Institute.

“As we turn toward recovery, insights and data will be critical to enable the business travel industry to navigate what will likely be a dynamic year ahead,” said Suzanne Neufang, Chief Executive Officer of GBTA. “This forecast is designed to help corporate travel buyers build and budget their 2022 travel programs through an informed summary of how the global pandemic influenced pricing in 2021, along with a detailed look at macroeconomic factors that will affect pricing in 2022.”

Macroeconomic influences

The global economy is expected to grow 5.9% in 2021, followed by 4.9 % in 2022, spelling growth for business travel. However, several uncertainties remain on the periphery that could influence the macroeconomic outlook and the global travel economy.

Macroeconomic forces, government policy, and COVID protocols, will continue to impact future pricing more than ever before. As with previous industry interruptions, many travelers won’t return immediately, and the business traveler may find themselves in a price competition with the leisure traveler – who is leading the recovery and willing to pay higher prices on key city routes and destinations.

Even as macroeconomic challenges remain acute, global economy growth expectations across 2022 and 2023 will help accelerate the recovery of business travel. Factors including a pick-up in demand, capacity constraints, increased labour and fuel costs will lead to higher prices globally across air, hotel, and ground transportation.  Despite these anticipated rises, business travel pricing, with the exception of ground transportation, is unlikely to exceed 2019 pricing over the next two years.

Air

After rising 2.6% in 2019 air fares fell 3.1% in 2020 and a further 31% for business travellers, led by a 38% decline in premium class, followed by nearly a 19% decline in economy class tickets across 2021. However, air fares are expected to rise 3.3% in 2022, and 3.4% in 2023.

Airline capacity remains tight, and is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, or 2024. As a result, business travelers are competing for limited capacity with leisure travelers. This will continue to exert pressure on airfare prices in 2022, as they move in unison with demand. If demand increases faster than capacity returns, price increases could outpace these forecasted increases.

Premium fares are expected to start picking-up in 2023 as demand normalizes, while economy fares, especially on domestic routes, will continue to benefit from strong gains in leisure traffic going into 2022.

Domestic leisure destinations will continue to lead recovery in 2022, and, while urban centers with strong corporate traffic will take longer to recover, higher vaccination levels should strengthen business traveler confidence.

Higher oil prices increase operating costs, and will continue to put upward pressure on fares as airlines seek to improve profitability metrics, and 2022 corporate travel policies will also be a factor in the recovery of air fare on corporate-heavy rates.

Hotel

After rising 3.5% in 2019, hotel prices fell 8.3% in 2020 and an additional 17.7% in 2021, with prices as of Q3 2021 down from 2019 levels by approximately 25%.

Although hotel prices are expected to rise 13% globally in 2022, followed by a further 10% in 2023, it will take some time for a return to 2019 levels in many markets. As borders open for non-essential travel, occupancy rates will rise, putting upwards pressure on pricing and 2022 will see a push in that direction.

Upscale hotels should see higher occupancy levels, and higher room rates, as business travel gains momentum. However, with higher global labor and operating costs and supply chain disruptions likely to continue, the firming of hotel pricing to 2019 levels may fluctuate until these factors become more consistent.

Corporate meetings & events will also help impact hotel pricing, and CWT Meetings & Events anticipates that the bulk of immediate meeting bookings will be small and regional. Virtual and hybrid meetings played a leading role in 2021, while the overall meeting size of live meetings dropped from an average of 42 attendees per meeting in 2019 and 2020, to an average of 24 attendees in 2021.

Many organizations appear to be choosing smaller regional meetings, as opposed to larger events involving travel at the current time, however, as restrictions lift, and pent-up demand leads to more people travelling for meetings, that looks set to change in 2022. Demand for meetings and events has increased 53% for the first half of 2022 from 2021.   

Ground transportation

Global car rental prices fell 2% in 2020 and recovered 1.2% in 2021, and pricing is expected to increase 3.9% in 2022, and an additional 3.0% in 2023.

The restricted supply of new vehicles, combined with a boost in demand for rental vehicles, will drive higher price rises in the short- to medium-term.

Providers are looking to update their fleet as a matter of urgency, but with a shortfall in the used car market and issues with global car manufacturing due to shortages of semiconductor computer chips, fleets are unlikely to be fully replenished until 2023.

The offer of electric vehicles is also going to be pivotal over the next three years, with sustainability a key priority for employers and employees alike. Some providers are already making in-roads towards electrifying their fleet, building their own charging infrastructure, and adding the booking of hybrid and e-vehicles to transfer and limousine services.

Climate-conscious travelers may also choose rail over car rental (and short-haul flights) in increasing numbers. France has already moved to ban domestic flights on routes that can be travelled by train within two-and-a-half hours, and returning business travelers are being more conscious of their end-to-end travel time – plus the ability to work on the train which is obviously not possible when renting a vehicle.

For more detailed information please view the report online. You can also download a PDF version of the 29-page report.


About the 2022 Global Business Travel Forecast

Projections in the 2022 Global Business Travel Forecast involved:

  • Statistical models developed by GBTA
  • Evaluation of historical price behavior and forecasts on air, hotel and ground categories by research, strategy and market and economic research firm, Avrio Institute
  • The market-specific expertise and travel industry knowledge of CWT
  • Information sourced from the International Monetary Fund Research Department, IATA, the World Travel and Tourism Council, the United Nations and other leading organizations

Projections are based on anonymized transaction data from CWT’s global client portfolio, including anonymized client travel patterns, over the past ten years. Key macroeconomic and per-country indicators, such as current and expected GDP growth, the consumer price index, unemployment rates and crude oil prices, were used in the statistical model, as well as key supply-side drivers sourced from OAG and STR Global. All air statistics represent point of origin and include all trip types.

More information

Learn more about the 2022 Global Business Travel Forecast and the price projects and trends that lie ahead in 2022 during an education session at GBTA Convention 2021 (room W415) on Wednesday, 17 November 2021 at 11:15 hours (Eastern Time Zone).

About GBTA

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s largest business travel and meetings trade organization representing the $1.4 trillion business travel industry. With operations across four continents, GBTA’s members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA delivers world-class education, professional development, events, research, advocacy and media to a growing global network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts. Visit www.gbta.org and follow us on LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

About CWT

CWT is a Business-to-Business-for-Employees (B2B4E) travel management platform. Companies and governments rely on us to keep their people connected – anywhere, anytime, anyhow – and, across six continents, we provide their employees with innovative technology and an efficient, safe, and secure travel experience

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