Only a quarter (26%) of businesses plan to return to pre-Covid-19 levels for domestic travel during 2021, new research reveals.

The remaining 74% of businesses predict reduced domestic travel for the immediate year ahead, according to the survey by FCM Travel Solutions and SME travel provider Corporate Traveller.

The pre-Covid average number of business trips per traveller was 6-8 a year but this number is likely to fall between 3 and 4 trips per person, per year until 2023.

Clients still have long-haul travel plans on hold indefinitely, as they assess the balance between need and safety.

In particular, national businesses in US, Australia, China and New Zealand were less likely to have long-haul international plans for 2021, indicating only domestic and short-haul international travel will be planned for next year.

Almost a third (29%) of respondents from China said they will not be travelling long haul, while 22% of respondents in New Zealand, 16% in Australia and 7% in the US indicated the same.

The results come from interviews in August with 250 of FCM’s multi-national large-scale clients, plus SME customers globally, representing more than 60 countries where each TMC manages their travel.

While half of respondents said they have employees already travelling or booking to travel in the near future, resuming travel “will be different for everyone”.

The combined results of research which first started in April showed that the majority (90%) of businesses indicated that they planned to travel domestically and short haul international flights, within three months of governments re-opening borders and lifting restrictions such as quarantine.

Across all industries, the first people to travel will be/have been sales, client management and project workforce who are focused on business growth, customer retention and the resumption of projects.

Nineteen per cent of respondents agree that the least likely to travel in the near future were administration and internal support staff as they are not client facing.

Chris Galanty, global corporate chief executive of FCM and Corporate Traveller parent company CEO, Flight Centre Travel Group, said: “Engaging with our customers on the impact Covid-19 via this three phase state of the market research project was vital in order to understand our customers sentiments and the best way we can support them during a period of rapid and continuing seismic change and uncertainty.

“Even now, as pockets of the industry turn towards recovery, the business travel landscape continues to shift and evolve.

“In preparation for a return to some normality, businesses and suppliers are reframing their priorities, processes and procedures.

“It is clear that uncertainty will remain for some time, particularly while governments re-impose border restrictions or quarantine periods.

“However, understanding how companies are resuming business travel and what factors are having the biggest impact on their priorities, will enable us to provide the best possible support going forwards.”