New research from a leading SME travel management provider has revealed the hopeful outlook Australian small-to-medium sized businesses have for their future recovery from COVID in 2023.
The findings were derived from a survey of an independent panel of 202 Australian SME business owners, commissioned by Corporate Traveller, Flight Centre Travel Group’s SME business travel specialist division. The full survey results, across state and organisation sizes, can be found here corporatetraveller.com.au/resources/insights/sme-business-sector-recovery
From the survey, Corporate Traveller found just 22 per cent of businesses had not been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Among the businesses that have been impacted, one in three (32 per cent) said they expected to recover by the end of 2022, and one in three (33 per cent) in 2023.
One in four (23 per cent) revealed that their recovery would likely occur after 2023, while 11 per cent of businesses said they had already recovered. Just two per cent revealed they will never recover or had closed their business in the last two years.
Tom Walley, Global Managing Director for Corporate Traveller, says: “It’s promising to see that a high proportion of SMEs are hopeful for their recovery and are likely to bounce back over the next 18 months.
“Many SMEs experienced financial hardship or were forced to hibernate, and even close, during the pandemic. This also impacted our economy. However, with business success on the horizon, Australia’s economy can also enjoy a much-needed boost.”
Businesses were also asked to identify the factors, from a list of 11, that they believe will aid their recovery. Australia’s economic recovery would have the biggest positive impact on SMEs, with this factor chosen by more than half (57 per cent) of respondents.
Thirty-eight (38) per cent of business owners said a return to travel would help their businesses recover, while 36 per cent said returning to the workplace to boost employee engagement and productivity would greatly aid their recovery.
Recruiting better and additional talent will help 31 per cent of SMEs, higher consumer confidence in the economy would help 30 per cent, and reduced inflation would assist 27 per cent, while better technology and Government stimulus would help 23 and 21 per cent of businesses, respectively.
Tom says: “Thanks to the recently announced Federal Budget, more SMEs will be able to tap into the very resources and assistance they said they needed to hasten their recovery.
“For instance, the Government will invest $21 billion in tax cuts to reduce the tax rate to the lowest level in five decades. Businesses will also be able to access new technologies and tax relief for training to upskill their employees.
“I also believe that a return to face-to-face communication will play an important role in the recovery, as do the 38 per cent of businesses who said they need to get back to travel to recover.
“Reinvigorating travel programs that were paused or investing more in travel this year will help drive sales and growth opportunities. As more countries open, businesses will also be able to recruit overseas talent and expand into new markets.
“Travel will be an important strategy for SMEs to consider in their recovery, whether they DIY their own travel or use a travel management provider to help navigate the new, complex environment.”
The full survey results, across state and organisation sizes, can be found here corporatetraveller.com.au/resources/insights/sme-business-sector-recovery
 Among the businesses surveyed, 32 per cent had 1-15 employees, 32 per cent had 16-50 employees, and 36 per cent had 51-200 employees.