The accepted wisdom is that business travel will rebound as soon as the economy does. But according to a new survey of frequent business travelers, the equation may not be that simple. More than 80 percent of the frequent travelers who completed a May 2002 survey said that, on average, 24 percent of their air travel reductions would be permanent.

The survey was conducted by the Business Travel Consortium, a Radnor, Pa., organization seeking to influence policy on issues affecting business travelers. The 403 who responded to the survey expect to book an average of 38 roundtrip tickets in 2002.

How much has corporate travel declined? BTC’s respondents expect, on average, to cut air travel spending by about 10 percent through the end of the year. That’s over and above cutbacks instituted before the May survey. Combining earlier research and the new information, BTC forecasts business travel at the end of 2002 to be 20 percent to 25 percent below peak 2000 levels.

The respondents said that "important or very important" reasons for the cutbacks include expensive airfares (73.3 percent), airport security hassles (51.1 percent), and personal concerns regarding safety (23.3 percent). Frequent travelers estimated, on average, that airfares would have to be 25 percent lower to produce a significant rebound in business travel. However if airlines reformed their airfares and improved the security process, 90 percent of survey participants said they would increase their travel in 2002.

Other findings:

  • On average, frequent travelers book their flights 10.2 days in advance, but three out of four would be willing to book further out if the airlines offered more affordable fares without the Saturday night stay requirement.

  • Almost 40 percent of respondents have replaced some air travel with car or train travel.

  • Three out of four respondents consider e-meetings (such as videoconferencing) an "effective or very effective" substitute for business interactions when a face-to-face meeting is not absolutely required.