Slow revival is likely for business travel. So, recovery for big airlines could be delayed by loss of the lucrative market.

While business travel evaporated when the coronavirus hit, it may take two to three years for it to fully recover - far longer than many travel experts initially predicted.

Even the longer timeline, said Henry Harteveldt, president of the Atmosphere Research Group, a travel market research firm in San Francisco, depends on ''the broader economy, the industry a operates in and demand for its products or services, as well as public health environment.''

And two-to three years maybe too optimistic - at least for the recovery by the major airlines.

Michael Derchin, an airline analyst, described the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on carriers as  ''Sept 11 and the Great Recession on steroids.'' He estimated that it could take airlines seven years, if not longer, to recover.

While business travelers make up about 10 percent of all passengers on the major airlines - including American, Delta, United, Lufthansa and Singapore, they generate half the airlines' revenue, Mr. Derchin said.

And Mr. Harteveldt estimated that business travelers were responsible for 55 to 75 percent of major airlines profits worldwide. Not only do business travelers buy more expensive and profitable tickets, they are also most likely to hold airline credit cards and buy airport lounge memberships, among other services.

As for hotels, business travelers generate about 70 percent in Marriott's and Hilton's global revenues, said Robin Farley, lodging analyst at UBS. She predicted that the common measure of hotels' financial health, revenue per available room, would not return to 2019 levels until 2023 and 2024.

Michael Bellisario, lodging analyst for the financial firm Baird, also doesn't see revenue per available recovering until 2023 at the earliest, he said.

He added that he believed that large, urban U.S. markets, which generally contain bigger more profitable hotels, would lag behind smaller ones.

Marriott is seeing a slow return of domestic bookings, though many are by leisure travelers in vacation destinations. It said about 70 percent of its corporate clients worldwide were expected to ease or lift restrictions on employee travel within the next three months.

The car rental industry is perhaps the brightest spot among travel suppliers.

The average length of business travel rentals at Enterprise, National and Alamo has risen recently, said Donald Moore, a senior vice president of business rental sales and global corporate accounts, at  Enterprise Holdings, the brands parent company.

Some business travelers are keeping cars up to seven days, compared with less than three days before the pandemic. They are driving distances - like from St. Louis to Chicago - that they previously flew, Mr. Moore said.

Recent polls also raise questions about the timing of a rebound in business travel and its possible replacement by virtual meeting platforms.

In a survey by Institutional Investor magazine last month, more than half of the chief information officers, portfolio managers and other investment decision makers said they did not expect to travel again until November and December, at the earliest.

And 93 percent of more than 300 global companies surveyed in May by the BCG Henderson Institute, the research organization of the Boston Consulting Group, expanded to permanently change ''remote-working and meeting policies,'' while 66 percent anticipated permanently changing travel policies.

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on Travel Policies : Present and  Future, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Jane L. Levere.


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