Expected spending on business travel across Europe continues to steadily increase due to pent-up demand, hybrid work environments, the return of travel and meetings and more stable economic conditions, according to GBTA Business Travel Index™ Outlook regional analysis.
After a slower regional rebound over the last few years, business travel spending in Europe is expected to surpass its pre-pandemic spending level of $391.9 billion USD in 2025, when spending is forecast to reach $414.9 billion. This is later than the forecast for global business travel recovery, which is expected to reach $1.5 trillion in 2024 − and grow to nearly $1.8 trillion by 2027.
These are the takeaways for Europe from the 2023 GBTA Business Travel Index™ Outlook (BTI) report published by the Global Business Travel Association in collaboration with Visa. These latest regional forecasts and findings take a deep dive into business travel spending and trends in Europe for 2023 to 2027.
In 2021, Europe was the only region where business travel spending declined. However, Europe’s business travel spending made up lost ground in 2022, growing to 93.5% over the past year, achieving the highest growth rate of any region in the world. The outlook varies across the region, with Western Europe accounting for 88% of Europe’s business travel spend. This share has grown as the war in Ukraine continues to take its toll on Emerging Europe. While Western Europe recovered 71% of its pre-pandemic travel spend last year, Emerging Europe had only recovered to 57%.
Business travel spend in Europe continues to grow at a steady rate and is forecast to reach $449.9 billion in 2027. But organisations and their business travellers and programs are also adjusting to new changes. The hybrid work environment has brought with it new challenges. As firms and employees appreciate the benefit of in-person connections, we are seeing more travel related to internal meetings and training purposes. Additionally, sustainable travel options continue to be a key driver and multi-modal trips now account for almost a third of recent business trips. As a region, Europe is leading the way in offering alternative, more sustainable solutions. Catherine Logan, GBTA Regional Senior Vice President, EMEA and APAC
Highlights from the 2023 GBTA BTI Outlook report for the European region*:
- Overall, business travel spend in Europe has recovered to 69% of pre-COVID (2019) levels and is forecast to recover to 90% of travel spend by year end (2023). Western Europe is forecast to reach 94% and Emerging Europe to 67% of 2019 levels.
- Recovery in business travel continues to vary by region and country. Western Europe was the fastest growing region globally in 2022 surging 109% to $236 billion, fuelled by the return of in-person meetings and events and the recovery of international business travel capacity and volumes. Emerging Europe continues to lag in its recovery, challenged by the war in Ukraine.
- Western Europe remains the third largest business travel region in the world, with 23% of the global travel spend in 2022, and is forecast to remain at this level in 2023. Six countries − Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands − made up three-quarters of the region’s expenditures in 2022.
- Business travel spending recovery differs by market with some of the largest business travel markets in this region falling below the Europe-wide recovery rate; namely Germany reaching 65%, UK 57% and Italy 68% in 2022. Conversely, France at 75%, Spain at 86%, Netherlands at 87% and the Nordic region (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) at 74% also showed stronger rebounds.
- In 2023, business travel spend in Germany is forecasted to reach 89% of 2019 spend levels, the UK 82%, and Italy 97%. France is expected to reach 96%, Spain 103%, Netherlands 107% and the Nordic region 95%.
- Looking ahead at the top global markets for total business travel spend, Germany remains in third position with 38% annual growth forecasted in 2023 versus 2022. For the same period, the UK is forecast to move into fifth position (43% growth), ahead of France and Italy (28% growth and 43% growth respectively).
- Industry recovery also differs in Europe. Sectors showing the most resilience and return to business travel spend for 2023 versus 2019 include the industry categories of Accommodation and Food Service, Arts, Recreation and Entertainment, and Utilities. For the same period, the least recovered industries by business travel spend include Mining and Quarrying, Retail Trade, Wholesale Trade, and Transportation and Warehousing.
- While a promising rebound is expected, there are several factors that could influence the industry’s longer-term forecast. Geo-political factors and persistent economic challenges, an increased focus on sustainability initiatives, widespread adoption of meeting technologies, growth in the remote workforce, and the rise of blended travel are potential game changers in the future of business travel.
Insights from Business Travellers across Europe:
- In GBTA’s BTI survey of 1,176 business travellers across Europe, 82% reported that business travel was very or moderately worthwhile in achieving their business objectives. Three-quarters (78%) have taken one to five business trips in the last 12 months, and one-third (31%) booked an airfare for their last work trip through “managed” channels. Just 19% extend a work trip for leisure compared to the global average of 42%.
- Purposeful travel is a priority in Europe, with business travellers from this region taking, on average, 3.51 days per business trip. Reasons cited for travel include seminar/training, external and internal meetings, consulting and professional services.
- Multi-modal travel is more prominent in this region; 32% used rail on their last business trip (versus 18% globally), 36% used air travel (42% globally) and 29% used a personal car (31% globally).
- On average, business travellers in Europe spent $888 per person (including both managed and unmanaged spending) on their last business trip, with lodging accounting for $366 of this expenditure. This is followed by food and beverage ($157), air travel ($148), ground ($122) and miscellaneous expenditures ($95). The average spend is less in Europe than in North America ($1,219 average spend per person) or Asia-Pacific ($1,038 average spend per person).
- Average business travel spending across the region is relatively consistent, with the exceptions of the Nordic countries, where the average per person trip cost reached $1,255, and Spain, which has a lower per person trip cost of $630.
- European business travel frequency mirrors global trends. Two-thirds (67%) of Europeans believe they will travel the same or more frequently in 2023, compared to 2019. About one in three (29%) think they will travel less frequently, a finding on par with North America and the global average.
- Most European business travellers have a corporate credit card. More than two-thirds (69%) of business travellers state their employer provides them with it, however, just 12% use their corporate card for all travel expenses.
- For business travellers with a corporate card, two-thirds (69%) have uploaded their card to a mobile wallet. Although Europe has the highest adoption rate for mobile wallets of any market, European business travellers use their mobile wallets less frequently. Almost 85% of European business travellers who have uploaded their corporate card to a mobile wallet use it for at least 10% of their business transactions.
*Western Europe includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Emerging Europe includes Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Read more here about the 2023 GBTA Business Travel Index Outlook report. GBTA members can exclusively access the full BTI report on the GBTA Hub. For information about GBTA Research or about GBTA BTI historical data for 2000-2027, reach out to [email protected].
About the Global Business Travel Association
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organization headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. GBTA’s members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA delivers world-class education, events, research, advocacy, and media to a growing global network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts.
About the GBTA Foundation
The mission of the GBTA Foundation, the US 501c3 charitable arm of GBTA, is to help the global business travel industry create a positive impact and a better future for people and the planet. The GBTA Foundation focuses on the strategy and execution of GBTA’s global sustainability programs, supporting initiatives related to climate action; diversity, equity and inclusion; and other talent-related topics via education, research and advocacy.