Survey: COVID-19 grounding business travel

Posted on Aug 4, 2020 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive
Posted by of Insight Publications

Businesses responding to the fourth statewide University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh COVID-19 economic impact survey showed gains, rather than losses, on several key indicators but expressed extreme caution in their business and personal travel plans.

“Among top-line impacts, the July survey showed significant growth over previous months, largely reflecting businesses operating in a fully open but constrained environment,” says Jeffrey Sachse, interim director of the UW-Oshkosh Center for Customized Research and Services.

For the first time, survey respondents were asked to share their perspectives on business and personal travel during the pandemic, with 65 percent eliminating all non-essential travel for the remainder of this year, and more than one-third already deciding to do the same in 2021. Personal travel also has decreased for 70 percent of respondents, confirming the losses observed across Wisconsin’s tourism industry.

In July 2020, responding businesses reported:

  • Inventory gains of $3.38 million
  • Income gains of $11.29 million
  • Wage and productivity gains of $4.18 million
  • Other financial impacts of $7.2 million

Responding firms also added 249 new staff members during the month.

“We started to see the early indications of economic recovery in June,” Sachse says. “The July survey results show both the scale and fragility of that recovery. While businesses are reporting growth, more than half of the businesses responding to the survey reported continued losses or no change.”

While firms are at their most optimistic regarding their long-term viability from at any point in the survey period, with more than half reporting survivability of seven months or more, there are ongoing areas of concern. Fifty-five percent of respondents continued to apply for financial assistance last month and 17 percent continued to expand their online profile as a way to bring in more business.

The survey also asked respondents to reassess their comfort level with employees working from home. The results showed 43 percent had some level of comfort with their business’s ability to continue to work from home or return to the work at home model if necessary. A quarter of businesses said they were extremely uncomfortable with having employees work from home. Sachse says this is a significant change from the first survey, in which most businesses reported less than 50 percent productivity in their remote workforce.

“While evidence of recovery across the region was reflected in the survey results — with gains in inventory, income, wage and productivity, and an uptick in hiring — businesses are still taking a very cautious approach about transitioning from the home environment to the physical work environment,” says Barb LaMue, president and CEO of New North Inc.

The August COVID-19 economic impact survey will be sent to responding businesses and partner organizations from Aug. 5 to 19. The survey is a partnership of UW-Oshkosh, New North Inc. and the state’s other eight regional development organizations, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. To view the survey’s complete results, click here.