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While it’s still too early to say when business travel could make a full recovery, smaller businesses drove some important trends in the first quarter of 2023.  A look at first-quarter earnings from Delta, American, and Southwest airlines; Choice Hotels; Global Business Travel Group; HRS and Hertz shows one definitive trend. The role of small and medium-sized enterprises is catching the attention of analysts and travel executives as they gauge how the corporate travel segment is bouncing back, as reported by SKIFT.com. Many of these companies are seeing the growth of smaller meetings and hybrid work environments. Some companies are seeing better yields as blended travel habits continue. First-quarter earnings show some notable trends centered on travel for smaller businesses.

Delta Air Lines saw an improvement in business travel during the first quarter, noting in its earnings call that travel by small- and medium-sized businesses have surpassed 2019 levels. International trips led growth in the managed corporate travel segment.

American Airlines also mentioned the impact of smaller businesses on its latest earnings call. “We see a lot of growth,” an executive said in response to an analyst’s question about small- and medium-sized enterprises. “Clearly it’s not just that people are traveling less on contracted accounts, but we’re seeing people who are taking business-style trips or even blended trips who have no recognized contract or corporate affiliation,” he said.

American is especially noticing this demand from the Sun Belt areas of Arizona, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The growth of smaller meetings was also a key talking point during the first quarter earnings cycle of 2023 as companies look to gather their distributed teams throughout the year and visit clients.

We’re seeing a high demand for small meetings across our customer base, as well as a growing demand for our services as companies increase their investment in meetings and events, shared Lynn Beierschmitt, president of Liaisons Meetings & Events.