Most business travelers expect to get back on the road by mid-2021, according to a survey conducted by BCD Travel.
Mike Eggleton, BCD's director of research and intelligence, said more than 60% of business travelers surveyed expected to be traveling regularly by mid-2021. By the end of the year, that figure could be above 90%.
Eggleton discussed the survey results Wednesday in a webinar on the return of business travel. The survey was conducted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 and garnered 708 responses.
While 13% of those surveyed said they are already traveling regularly for business, Eggleton said the larger return of business travel depends greatly on the easing of lockdowns and travel restrictions. Many countries are employing Covid-19 metrics (such as case numbers in one's country of origin) to determine when borders reopen and who can cross them. With that in mind, Eggleton said, borders will not reopen in a uniform manner.
Business travelers are largely looking to a coronavirus vaccine to give them the confidence to hit the road again, BCD's survey found. They are also looking for improved Covid-19 treatments and testing to give them more confidence.
Of those surveyed, 74% said they will probably or definitely get vaccinated, 16 percent were undecided and 10% said they probably or definitely won't get vaccinated.
Countries or suppliers could mandate that travelers provide proof of vaccination, Eggleton said, but for at least the near future, testing and quarantine regimens will likely remain in place. Vaccines are important, but not an immediate solution, he said.
In the interim, track-and-trace apps have also grown in popularity, according to Eggleton. Countries are mandating travelers download monitoring apps to their phones. Hong Kong is likely the most extreme case. There, travelers have to wear monitoring wristbands and cannot leave their hotel rooms for 21 days. If they do, they face stiff fines and even imprisonment.
BCD's travelers largely felt positive about track-and-trace apps. Forty-eight percent felt positively about the technology, while 35% were undecided. Another 17% expressed a negative sentiment, which was likely caused by the privacy issues trackers bring up, Eggleton said.
Most, 65%, felt positive about predeparture Covid-19 testing. Most of the rest surveyed said it had no impact on them.
Jorge Mesa, BCD's director of global crisis management, highlighted one piece of technology that will become increasingly important in the future: Digital health passports.
The passports can store testing and vaccination information, and BCD believes they will become more and more widely used as time goes on. There are a number of such initiatives in the works today, including CommonPass and IBM's Digital Health Pass.
Mesa believes a few will emerge as the most-used passports, and different countries will accept different passports. He likened it to how restaurants accept different major credit cards.