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Business travel spending won’t return to pre-Covid levels until 2026

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Lighted tunnel within the United Airlines terminal, O’Hare International Airport, Chicago Illinois.

Andrew Woodley | Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Business travel spending won’t get well to pre-pandemic levels until sometime in 2026 — two years later than previously expected — as inflation, labor shortages and geopolitical issues slow the sector’s rebound, in line with a recent industry forecast.

Spending by business travelers, a key income for airlines and hotels, a number of the hardest-hit industries within the pandemic, has been on the upswing this yr. Spending worldwide is about to rise nearly 34% in 2022 to $933 billion, in line with the Global Business Travel Association’s annual report and forecast, published Monday.

That is still far in need of the greater than $1.4 trillion in business travel generated in 2019, before the Covid pandemic. One reason is that top inflation is driving up travel costs, which the industry group last week said would proceed to climb through 2023.

For instance, this yr through July, revenue per available room in U.S. hotels was $92.36, up from $88.05 over the identical period of 2019, in line with preliminary data from hotel data firm STR. Occupancy was 63%, down from nearly 67% in 2019.

The report forecast a 42% increase in business travel spending within the U.S. this yr from 2021, to just about $213.4 billion. U.S. airline and hotel executives have touted a return of business travelers this yr after many firms put trips on hold through the pandemic.

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