Business travel will remain strong in 2024, with one of Australia’s foremost industry experts forecasting exciting changes from mid-year. Increased capacity and greater competition among airlines are anticipated to lower airfares and further boost business travel.
Tom Walley Australia-based Global Managing Director of Corporate Traveller, the flagship SME division of Flight Centre Travel Group, says: “The business travel industry is healthy and is already seeing some critical changes come through.
Premium fares have already dropped, and we can expect to see economy fares come down by mid-2024 as flight capacity from international carriers increases.
“We’re seeing travellers take advantage of being able to combine business and leisure travel. There’s also a real business focus on face-to-face meetings and collaboration, given the evidence that in-person meetings are the most productive way for businesses to operate. Overall, 2024 will bring good news for businesses that travel.”
- Based on his industry and market observations, emerging global trends and travel habits among Corporate Traveller customers, Tom shares his six forecasts for 2024:
1 Business travel remains a high priority despite economic impacts: Lower airfares in 2024 will open options for budget-conscious business flyers. Tom said while economic uncertainty posed concerns for any business, there would be a meeting point in the travel industry with falling travel costs.
A recent Corporate Traveller business survey found that 91 percent of SMEs would continue to travel regardless of economic pressures. Furthermore, an October 2023 survey by the Global Business Travel Association found about 70 per cent of corporate travel buyers expect to increase or maintain their travel budgets in 2024.
2 Premium international flight seats to drop further: Tom has observed business class seats to destinations such as London and New York reducing for the first time since the pandemic and has seen this firsthand in his own recent leisure and business travel, with costs ranging by up to 60 percent depending on the time of booking and flexibility.
He suggests utilising a travel management company – who can do the leg work for you and hunt down the best price – which is key to getting the best deal. As much as possible, Tom suggests being flexible with the dates and times that you fly – and with what airline you travel on.
3 International demand to continue into 2024, but seat capacity will soften prices. Flight Centre’s current Big Red Sale indicates that everyday prices will drop moving into next year.
Competition will begin driving international travel prices down as Chinese carriers made a strong return to Australian capital cities in the final quarter of 2023. All eight Chinese airlines that operated to Sydney pre-pandemic have now returned, with the final carrier, Sichuan Airlines, marking the milestone at the end of October 2023.
Further, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines both returned to Brisbane this month. Existing carriers are also increasing their capacities, with available seats up 25.6 per cent in September 2023 compared to the same time last year.
Tom predicts peak travel periods, such as the 2024 European and North American summer, will continue to bring about high demand, and suggests business travellers plan and book in advance if they are looking to travel popular routes throughout this period.
4 Regional business travel will sustain rapid growth. After recent Corporate Traveller research identified a 29 percent surge in regional travel bookings this year – with some routes having grown by more than 60 percent – Tom predicts regional travel will continue at these levels.
The fast-growing mining industry, including mining for critical minerals used for renewable energy infrastructure, is believed to be behind the boom: nine of the top 10 fastest-growing routes were in Queensland where there has been high investment in regional industries, such as mining and tourism.
5 Bleisure trips on the rise. Tom expects bleisure travel to continue to rise in 2024 as the world returns to normality, flight capacity continues to grow, and collaboration remains a priority.
As we see a fixation on productivity amidst economic pressures, organisations are looking to meet and gather face-to-face. Employees are taking advantage of increased business travel to extend their trip for joint leisure purposes.
Corporate Traveller’s own booking data found one, two, and three-day trips between May and October 2023 dropped by an average of 3.9 per cent year on year, while four, five, and six-day trips increased by an average of 4.6 per cent, year on year. Specifically, Corporate Traveller saw a 5.8 per cent growth in six-day trips. This trend is expected to carry into 2024.
6 Brisbane to take over Perth as the most popular destination for international business travel as Chinese carriers add capacity. In 2023, Corporate Traveller’s booking data showed that Perth saw a 34 percent growth in international business travel, compared with Melbourne and Sydney (each less than 10 percent growth), Brisbane (25 percent) and Adelaide (21 percent).
By mid-2024, Tom expects Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne’s growth rates to outpace Perth’s with the return of Chinese airlines. Sydney and Melbourne have made a full return to eight Chinese carriers and the Victorian Government has revealed it will see further flights added in September 2024. China Southern Airlines landed in Brisbane for the first time in four years on 18 November 2023, China Eastern Airlines returns from December 2023, and more carriers are expected in the new year.
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