New research shows that a speedy return of business travel following the coronavirus pandemic could boost the British economy by over £17 billion ($21bn) over the next eight years.
A report published by public consultancy WPI Economics on Thursday said the return of executive travel could spur regional economies and help growing sectors such as FinTech and gaming.
Polling by the consultancy showed that more than 73 per cent of businesses expect to travel for work in the next two years, a figure that rose to nine in 10 (89 per cent) in London.
In addition, the research found that about two thirds (67 per cent) said that they would lose clients or contracts if their team was unable to fly.
The consultancy compared the advantages of a speedy return to a slow return and found that the quick-return scenario would boost the UK economy by as much as £17.5bn between now and 2030.
Restrictions on flights during the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed business flights as executives turned to online meetings and other communication methods to forge business links and retain customers.
The grounding of business air travel, which represented a fifth of the industry as a whole, was significant as it contributed about £20bn to the economy.
In many ways, the rebound in business travel is already under way, with Heathrow reporting 79 per cent of pre-Covid levels in May as 5.3 million passengers used the airport.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) also expects total passenger numbers across Europe to reach 86 per cent of 2019 levels in 2022, before making a full recovery in 2024.
London City Airport, which commissioned the report, also said it had seen buoyant resurgence in demand, with Edinburgh, Belfast, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Milan and Zurich all performing above expectations.
Stephen Hammond MP, chairman of the APPG for Business Travel, said that the return of business for air travel was beneficial, not least in that it would boost national and regional economies.
“To avoid missing out on these potential economic uplifts, aviation bosses need to incentivise those businesses who have said they want to fly to return to the skies as quickly as possible,” he said in the report.
“This means getting staffing numbers right. It means ensuring a safe, speedy journey through the airport, and putting an end to chaotic security queues.”