Spendesk, the 7-in-1 spend management solution for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), has today shared its latest insights into business travel spend throughout the pandemic in the UK, France, and Germany.

Spendesk monitors business spend – including travel, accommodation, and eating out – across 3,500 SMBs in the three countries. The latest data shows how business spend has recovered in the first quarter of 2022, getting closer to pre-Covid levels, while looking at spending patterns throughout the pandemic. The latest key findings include:

  • While there was a dip in business travel spend in all three countries in early 2022, levels rallied in March 2022, and exceeded pre-Covid levels in France. In the UK, March 2022 spend was 4,364€, compared with 4,958€ in November 2019
  • The Omicron variant and seasonal factors can be seen as the main reasons for the dip in early 2022. UK spend, which had been at two-thirds (62%) of pre-pandemic levels in November 2021, fell by 38% in January 2022
  • Across the period as a whole – from the first wave of the pandemic to the first quarter of 2022 – recovery in Germany and France has been swifter than in the UK

 When it comes to specific travel habits and preferences across the period, there are general trends that reflect broader responses to COVID-19 impacts. For instance, spending across the three countries on flights declined by 41%, while spending on rail journeys decreased by 21%. Overall, there was a 45% rise in spend on car rentals, while spend on petrol increased by 343% as prices in Europe spiked to record levels in the third quarter of 2021. The UK saw the biggest spike in spend on car rentals (+344%) and cost of fuel (+691%) over the period.

At a regional level, the markets have shown some differences in travel habits and costs. The UK is the only one of the three countries where train travel (-58%) saw bigger declines than flights (-42%) from 2019 to 2021. The UK is also the only country where spend on flights has increased compared to pre-Covid (+14% as of 2022).

When it came to other types of spend – such as accommodation and eating out – hotels remain more popular than Airbnb for business travellers in all three countries. While business spend in restaurants dropped dramatically during the first wave, and again during January 2022, the most recent figures show more positive signs. For example, in the UK, monthly restaurant spend was back to 60% of pre-COVID levels last month; up from a third in January 2022.