< PrevNext > Index in the Shadow of Coronavirus By Elizabeth West / March 11, 2020 / Contact Reporter Share As Business Travel News went to press with the 2020 Corporate Travel Index, health agencies around the world continued to struggle with the spread of coronavirus, now known as Covid-19. Travel has been a critical vector for the spread of the disease, and travel markets around the world have been impacted on several levels. According to the International Air Transport Association, year-over-year international passenger traffic on Chinese airlines cratered by more than 50 percent in February; domestic passenger traffic dropped by closer to 75 percent. This largely can be attributed to the lockdown implemented by the Chinese government in its efforts to contain the virus. Moreover, airlines across the globe have drastically curtailed service to mainland China and, more recently, a handful of surrounding countries. China is the world's No. 1 business travel market, as measured by the Global Business Travel Association, which obviously means business travel suppliers rely more than ever on demand to, from and within the region to drive revenue. United Airlines Holdings on Feb. 23 rescinded its prior 2020 forecast, citing a 100 percent demand decrease to China and 75 percent decrease to the entire Asia/Pacific region and the impact on its overall ability to reach targets. InterContinental Hotels Group in its Feb. 19 earnings call cited a closure of 160 of its 470 hotels in China and a $5 million negative impact on fees for the month, with duration of the impact an unknown X factor. Mastercard revised its forecast down for the first quarter based largely on curtailed crossborder travels.Events and conferences as far away as the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona and a 5,000-attendee Facebook conference in San Francisco were undone by coronavirus concerns. Buzz at the Business Travel Show in London indicated some prominent companies have restricted international business travel in general in the face of rapidly growing infection numbers recently reported in Iran, Italy and South Korea. There have been dozens of confirmed cases in the U.S., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued statements about the need for U.S. citizens to prepare themselves for a broader outbreak locally. What Does This Mean for BTN's 2020 Corporate Travel Index? BTN gathered data for the Corporate Travel Index on a quarterly basis throughout 2019. As a result, the effects of Covid-19 on travel costs are not reflected in this issue's per diem rates. Yet, travel industry disruption on the scale seen so far this year—and uncertainty around when infection rates will subside—can only destabilize the travel cost environment. How far the ripple effect may extend into Asia/Pacific, Europe, the Middle East or even the U.S. is difficult to say. A lot may depend on how aggressively corporations restrict business travel activity. Current indications show duty-of-care obligations have become paramount for many. To that end, BTN did work with risk ratings provider GeoSure to offer current ratings for the 200 indexed cities. According to partner and chief strategy officer Daniel Madden, flight volume data played a central role in how the company scaled those ratings for cities outside China. "Cities with the most arriving flights from Chinese cities or cities in close proximity to those arrival-dense location had their scores increase the most," he said. "Vancouver, Seattle and neighboring municipalities are more greatly affected on the health and medical side. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, may not be as affected."BTN will continue to collect rate data on a quarterly basis in 2020. You can access it in our online Business Travel Index Calculator. Data may be limited for heavily affected cities.