The corporate travel sector faces a “challenging” recovery with companies “less eager” to send employees travelling on business than before.

That is the view of Deloitte lead partner for transportation Alistair Pritchard, who warned some of the decline in business travel “will be permanent”.

The UK Business Travel Association (BTA) called last week for a ‘parachute package’ of support measures from the government to help travel management companies (TMCs) and suppliers survive.

The BTA wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak warning of the loss of up to 10,000 jobs in the sector without urgent action.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly Roadmap to Recovery webcast, Pritchard said: “It’s going to be a challenging recovery on the business travel side – partly because of the [online meeting] technologies that have come to the fore over the last few months.

“That is coupled with employers’ responsibility to look after people and a recognition that they can keep costs down.

“Corporates will be less eager to put people back out travelling on business, particularly long haul.”

Pritchard foresees a slow return of corporate travel, arguing: “Ultimately, people like doing business with other people and there is always going to be a desire to do business face to face. So it will start to recover.

“[But] it will be below the levels it was, at least for some time – driven by corporate policies and the added benefits from a cost and environmental perspective.

“The ability to interact with people using technology, and the overlay of climate change, will be a permanent feature in business travel.”

However, Pritchard pointed out: “We were expecting air travel to grow significantly over the next 10 or 15 years. Will it eventually catch up and overtake where it was pre-Covid? Potentially, but it will be on a lower trajectory than had Covid not happened.”

The BTA has urged the Chancellor to extend a 12-month business rates holiday to the sector, scrap air passenger duty (APD) for 12 months to stimulate air bookings, and extend payroll financial support to TMCs at least until the end of the year, with the money to be repaid from company profits.