The road to recovery for the business travel industry is now shorter. Global Business Travel Association reports that there are some encouraging signs business travel spending is returning to pre-Covid levels sooner than expected. The Covid-19 pandemic halted business travel, and many predicted a long struggle to resurrect sales. The organization now predicts that global business travel expenditure will exceed its 2019 level of $1.4 trillion by 2024. This is in contrast to its previous forecast of 2026. The spending is predicted to reach $1.8 trillion by 2027. The GBTA credits the resilience of global economies as a major factor in the recovery. Morning Consult’s recent survey revealed that corporate decision makers are more optimistic than employees about business travel, which is positive since they set policy. Morning Consult’s survey found that 28% of corporate decision-makers and 32% of budget holders for travel plans said they expect their company to increase travel this year. This is compared to only 15% of employed adults. For its latest survey, after prior surveys of workers indicated a slow recovery, the company created a group of decision-makers in business travel, including those responsible for budgets. The 2 435 adults in the United States who were surveyed on Aug. 12-13 2023 included them. Lindsey Roeschke is a travel and hospitality analyst for Morning Consult. She was surprised at the results. She said, “I expected to see more negativity from the people on the inside. Like, ‘Yeah you workers might think you’re going somewhere, but when I look at the budgets it doesn’t appear likely ,”’. “We found the opposite. “I think this bodes well for recovery moving forward.” Roeschke explained that business travelers spend far more per person than leisure travelers, and a recovery will have a huge impact on the travel industry. She said that this is readily evident for airlines. She said that people will return to this category and buy premium seats. She added that these travelers tend to spend more money on amenities, checked luggage, food, and drinks. Michael Linenberg, a Deutsche Bank analyst, said that he felt encouraged by comments about corporate travel and believed revenue increases of 5% in September 2019 seemed “very possible.” In a note dated Sept. 8, he said that, “although volumes are down by an estimated 10% (which would mean 15% better yields), more companies are forcing their employees to go back to work this fall. We believe this will encourage additional corporate travel.” He also predicted that corporate earnings will grow again, with S & P 500 projected earnings to increase by 8% in December. Linenberg said that business travel used to account for 20% to 25% in volume, but now it has dropped by one to three percentages points. He said that there are some new segments the industry hadn’t previously focused on, like the ability to work remotely while traveling and the merging of business and pleasure travel. He said that while the airlines had seen a reduction in corporate travel, this has been offset by segments that did not exist before. Linenberg is generally bullish on American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines because of their strong margins, healthy cash flow generation, and diverse revenue streams. He views the recent pullbacks as an opportunity to purchase. American Airlines and Delta have both cut their forecasts for the third-quarter after increased costs hit profits. According to Truist analyst Patrick Scholes, online meetings have eaten up about 10% of the business travel market in the hotel industry. He said that the data checks of the firm on U.S. Hotels show a large number of corporate group bookings as well as a moderate acceleration in small and midsize businesses travel. He added that this is the time of year where group travel makes up a greater part of revenue. Scholes is a fan of Ryman Hospitality Properties, a real estate investment trust that owns The Grand Ole Opry and several convention hotels. He said that the company receives about 80% its revenue from conventions and groups. He added that there is little new competition because developers are hesitant to build group hotels. RHP YTD Ryman Hospitality Properties Year to Date Another name Scholes included on his list was Hyatt Hotels, which Scholes stated gets 30% of its revenue from groups and conventions. For the next six-to-nine months, groups will be the main driver of RevPAR, and these two companies are best positioned to achieve that, Scholes said. The recovery of business travel may also be affected by changes in the economy. Morning Consult’s Roeschke stated that “a lot will depend on how the economy plays out.” Michael Bloom, CNBC’s reporter, contributed to this report.