Business travel ‘may never recover from the pandemic’

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Photo by Sophie Rabey. 22-07-22. The IoD business breakfast in July at the OGH brought together the panel of former LR pilot and independent aviation expert Jerry Girard, Alderney chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout, the head of Treasury of the Guernsey States MP Mark Helyar’s Policy and Resources Committee and GIBA Chairman Paul Hodgson. The Butterfield-sponsored event was held to discuss Guernsey’s air connectivity strategy and the importance of sustainable air links in a post-covid economy. (31065332)

Paul Hodgson, president of the Guernsey International Business Association, said travel habits had changed during Covid and budget pressures had also impacted travel.

He said while people still had to leave the island to interact with customers, business travel had not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“Business travel will not necessarily be undertaken with the same cavalier attitude as in the past,” he said.

Mr Hodgson added that reliability was also crucial for the industry, due to the cost and business disruption of an extra night in London due to a delay.

“Being able to come and go in a day and be sure you’ll come back is important.”

Mr Hodgson was one of the panelists at the Institute of Directors’ July business breakfast, which focused on the future of Guernsey’s air links.

Passenger numbers have returned to 71% of pre-pandemic levels in Guernsey in the first five months of 2022, compared to a global average of 62%, said Alderney CEO Nico Bezuidenhout, although he is also more pessimistic about business travel figures as he was unsure how fully they would return.

Mr Bezuidenhout was also on the panel along with deputy Mark Helyar, who said post-Covid Guernsey was still considered a safe jurisdiction to travel to, which is why tourism figures were high.

Panelists were also asked which airports in London – or elsewhere – would be most beneficial for the island.

Both Mr Hodgson and Deputy Helyar said that from a business perspective London City has excellent connectivity, not only for London but also for short-haul connections to Switzerland and Germany . BA currently operates bi-weekly seasonal flights to the airport from Guernsey.

In response to an audience member suggesting BA might operate early morning flights to coincide with business travellers’ demands, Alderney CEO Nico Bezuidenhout said there was nothing stopping them from operating more frequently now.

While connections, especially long-haul, from Heathrow were excellent, Mr Bezuidenhout pointed out that it was one of the most expensive airports in the world to operate from.

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