Coronavirus could cost business travel industry $47bn a month

4 March 2020

The coronavirus could potentially cost the global business travel industry $46.6bn per month as companies cut overseas meetings, a survey has found.

A poll by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found the virus could potentially cost the industry $559.7bn annually, which would amount to 37% of the industry’s total 2020 forecasted global spend.

Primary destinations likely to be affected are North America, Europe, China and Asia Pacific region, according to the 401 companies that responded to the survey of the GBTA’s worldwide membership.

Two thirds (66%) of respondents reported postponing meetings or events due to the virus and 17% had postponed “many” events.

Among these respondents 54% were unsure when they expected travel to resume and 31% expected travel to resume in the next three months. One in seven (14%) expected delays to last up to six months.

Asia has suffered considerably as a result of changes to business travel with 95% of companies cancelling or suspending most or all of their business trips to China.

Three quarters (73%) said they had taken similar steps for events in Hong Kong and 54% had done the same for Taiwan.

Almost half (45%) had cancelled or suspended travel to meetings in other Asia Pacific countries such as Japan, South Korea or Malaysia.

When it came to trips to European countries, 23% said they had cancelled or suspended at least some travel. Only 8% had cancelled or suspended most or all European trips.

Scott Solombrino, GBTA’s chief operating officer and executive director, said: “It is clear that the coronavirus is having a significant – and potentially very costly – effect on our members, their companies and on the overall business travel industry.

“It is fundamentally affecting the way many companies are now doing business. If this turns into a global pandemic, the industry may well lose billions of dollars – an impact that will have negative ramifications for the entire global economy.”

Among global companies which have publicly cut back on business travel are Nestlé, which last week told SM: “We take our responsibility for our employees and to the communities in which we operate seriously and continue to follow the advice of public health organisations.

“As a precaution, we have asked all of our employees worldwide not to travel for business purposes until 15 March 2020. We will review this measure in light of external developments.”

L’Oreal, food firm Cargill, Unilever and Italian bank UniCredit are also reported to have cut back on business travel.

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