The Return of Business Travel, and the Rise of the Flexcation

After the pandemic caused business travel to come to a complete halt, the future of business travel became unclear. Some predicated that business travel was dead and that the availability of remote work meant business travel would never recover to pre-pandemic levels.  

However, as vaccinations became widespread and travel restrictions eased, business travel began to reemerge in 2022 as many companies looked to re-instill human connections, reconnect teams, and attend conferences. Now, as we enter 2023, the business travel sector faces new challenges with a looming recession. While the impact is yet to be seen, one thing is clear: consumers want to get back to business travel.  

Business travel begins its comeback in 2022

According to the U.S. Travel Association Q3 Business Travel Tracker, which surveyed business travelers and corporate executives in September of 2022, business travel has almost caught up to pre-pandemic levels. Most respondents plan to travel for business in the next 6 months, taking on average 1.8 trips per month, compared to 1.9 pre-pandemic. 

Expedia Group’s first-party data also showed increasing business travel in Q3 of 2022, as there was a 10% uplift in demand from travelers with a business profile. This return of business travel was particularly impactful for big cities. London was a top 10 booked city for business travelers from APAC (Asia Pacific), EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) and NORAM (North America), while New York made the list for travelers from APAC and NORAM, and Paris was a leading destination for travelers from APAC and EMEA. 

Hotel advertising that can reach any traveler, anywhere

Travelers looking to book a hotel use multiple channels to find their ideal place to stay, from social media to travel websites, and more. This is why it’s imperative that you know when — and where — to reach the right traveler. Whether you’re trying to reach early-bird or last-minute bookers, our targeting capabilities can help you connect with the right traveler at the right time.  

Planning for business travel in 2023 

This increased demand for business travel continues to build. According to our 2023 Traveler Value Index, about a third (32%) of consumers are planning to take a business trip in the next 12 months, including more than 3 in 5 (62%) of remote workers. This is a significant increase from April of 2022, when only 16% of consumers said they would travel for business in the next 12 months. Not only are consumers planning to travel for work again, 85% of business travelers said they are excited to travel for work. 

50% of Brazilians plan to travel for business in the next 12 months

Consumers from Latin America (LATAM) are the most likely to travel for work, with 50% of Brazilian and 47% of Mexican consumers saying they will travel for business in the coming year. On the other hand, Japanese consumers are the most hesitant to travel for business, but this could shift as border restrictions continue to ease.  

Looking by generation, millennials and Gen Zs are the most likely to be traveling for work, with 45% of millennials and 40% of Gen Zs planning for work trips in the next year.  

As business travel begins to pick back up, the reasons for trips are varied. Some of the top reasons for travel include working with customers (37%), attending industry events (32%), on-site visits (28%), and internal team meetings (26%). 

This return presents positive business impact, as business travelers top the list of priority targets for travel professionals. According to data from the 2023 Traveler Value Index, 51% of travel professionals listed business travelers in their top three highest priority targets, the highest percentage of any traveler segment. This high priority is likely due to business travelers filling open spots for travel providers, as they travel during the week, while leisure travelers fill the weekends.  

Alternative business travel

While classic business travel has always presented a strong opportunity for travel providers, alternative business travel presents a new layer of growth in 2023. Bleisure travel, extending work trips for leisure, and flexcations, combining remote work with leisure travel, can both add new layers of demand as many businesses continue with flexible or remote work options. 

Bleisure travel returns and grows 

Bleisure travel has been a strong opportunity for travel providers for years. Our Bleisure Travel Report from 2018 revealed that 60% of business travelers extend their work trips for personal travel. Our 2023 Traveler Value Index showed that the likelihood of bleisure travel has jumped, with 76% of business travelers planning to take a bleisure trip in the next 12 months. With flexible work becoming more normalized, travelers have the opportunity to take more bleisure trips and extend them for longer periods since there is less pressure to return to the office.  

One example of a destination that took advantage of the bleisure opportunity is Visit Chandler, who worked with us to inspire business travelers headed to Pheonix to extend their stay with a few fun-filled days in close-by Chandler, Arizona. Utilizing a promotional blog post, business travelers are invited to work on their golf swing, discover the desert, check out the exciting restaurants, and even bring along the family to enjoy the year-round “pool season.” 

The flexcation opportunity  

According to a McKinsey & Company report, 35% of U.S. workers can work remote full-time, meaning a large percentage of workers have the ability to work from different destinations throughout the week. 

Data from the Traveler Value Index shows that 28% of consumers plan to take advantage of flexible work options by taking a flexcation in the next 12 months. For millennials and Gen Zs, flexcations are even more popular. Data shows that 43% of millennials and 38% of Gen Zs are planning on a flexcation trip in the next year. This new layer of demand presents a strong opportunity for travel providers to fill their mid-week lulls with travelers looking to get in some leisure time while they work from a new location.  

Targeting the business traveler  

In order to effectively target business, bleisure, and flexcation travelers, sophisticated targeting through customer segmentation is essential. Additionally, we offer several advertising solutions to ensure that your brand can reach travelers at the right time.  

To keep up with the latest trends and traveler behaviors and prepare for an effective 2023, make sure to download the 2023 Traveler Value Index.  

Headshot of Haley White at Expedia Group Media Solutions

Haley White

Senior Director, Hotel Strategic Accounts, Expedia Group Media Solutions

Haley is a senior director for strategic accounts with Expedia Group Media Solutions. She leads the team that creates and implements strategies to optimize marketing and revenue opportunities for our largest hotel partnerships. Haley is a member of the HSMAI Marketing Advisory Board, and is a graduate of Texas A&M University and lives in Dallas with her family.

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