BTA members report pent-up demand

In his latest column for The Business Travel Magazine, Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, says he's frustrated the quarantine on UK arrivals is holding back business travel recovery, especially with recent research showing there is pent-up demand. But, on the plus side, he is encouraged by recent talks with Number 10 and by airlines restarting flights.

“With every day that the Government keeps its 14-day quarantine in place, more and more travel industry jobs are being placed at risk. Ministers need to bear carefully in mind that business travel contributes £600m a day to the UK economy.

Promises of a quarantine review by the Transport Secretary are doing nothing to help travel management companies, who are fighting to avoid large-scale lay-offs. This situation is particularly galling as evidence is emerging of extensive pent-up demand for business travel.

Research among the Business Travel Association’s (BTA) members shows 70% have seen a growth in enquiries over the past week, with half of those wanting to travel within the next month. There is an even split between those looking for short as opposed to long haul. Demand for flights within the UK is also buoyant.

Yet, enquiries are one thing – firm bookings are another. Time and time again, BTA members cite Government restrictions as the biggest negative impact on recovery.

Thankfully the continued inaction of Government is being countered by the decisions of airlines to get up and flying. The sight of easyJet flights taking off across the UK earlier this week was very encouraging.

But, let’s be honest, the initial number of flights is modest, and largely within the UK rather than international. So while it’s positive news, it can only be viewed as one small step in the long path to recovery.

The business travel industry has been hit particularly hard by lockdown and quarantine. To begin rebuilding, positive Government assistance is essential. This is why the BTA is calling for an extension to the furlough scheme for the business travel sector until the end of 2020.

And over the past few days, I’ve had encouraging conversations with Number 10 and Henry Smith, MP, the leader of the Future of Aviation Group. The Government appears to be listening. Let’s hope they will act soon.”