Will Business Travel Ever Be the Same?

in Business, Travel

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of travel has changed drastically. Business travel in particular has been hampered by the reliance on technology for meetings, contract signings and day-to-day activities, leading to an increase in remote working over the past 18 months. While there were almost 5 million business trips made by travellers from the UK just to the EU in 2019, knowing what the future of business travel and corporate travel management holds can be difficult.

Segments Of Business Travel

McKinsey & Company conducted a study which identified four business-travel profiles which are situated at different ends of the travel spectrum, some of whom may help to bring back corporate travel at a faster rate, while others will leave it stagnant.

  • Those who deem business travel essential
  • Those who aim to permanently remove all need for corporate travel
  • The ‘FOMO’ segment – those who are aiming to resume travel as soon as possible due to the fear of missing out on key business opportunities
  • The ‘wait and see’ companies – those who are able to work virtually and may hold onto this for the foreseeable future

It will be the FOMO segment of businesses who will likely rebuild the corporate travel market at a faster rate. This particular segment typically revolves around SME’s who will aim to capitalise on the space that more established brands in their markets may have provided with their reluctance to travel and allow them to properly cultivate client relationships for the long-term.

The Importance Of In-Person Interaction

In-person interaction for businesses has always been of importance, and no more so than when dealing with businesses across the globe. According to a 2008 study from the University of Iowa, handshakes can help to release oxytocin which can help individuals to create bonds and ultimately to build a level of trust which is not possible through a Zoom call. That level of trust, particularly for large-scale business deals, is something that cannot be replicated virtually and as a result, may be able to better drive the future of business travel. Nevertheless, IATA believes that business travel will not get back to some form of normal (pre-pandemic levels) before 2024 as a result of concerns for health risks and the seemingly never-ending state of the pandemic.

Risk Averse Travel

With businesses becoming much more risk averse, with many offices still not being completely open, travel management companies may be more in-demand than they were previously. Back in 2020, in the early months of the pandemic, airlines began to warn of increases in prices of up to 54% as they aimed to recover from the crisis, with talks of middle seats remaining vacant on planes. With increases in pricing, concerns of health risks and more admin to complete with sworn statements, vaccination passes and more all being required and varying by country, businesses may rely more on a third-party TMC in order to help manage their business travel requirements and streamline their travel.

What Does The Future Hold?

The future of business travel will likely revolve around safety and security, more than ever before. While the vaccination programmes continue to disperse around the globe and with the world reopening its borders to international travel, business travel in some form will begin to revitalise itself.

With conferences, in-person meetings and team-building trips will take place in some form, the reliance the world has had on technology since the start of the pandemic will certainly replace some forms of business deals across the globe. While this will help to save businesses time and money, it comes at the risk of losing the in-person trust and relationship building exercises.

While each country’s requirements remain different in terms of documentation, vaccination status, mask-wearing and more, the return of business travel will be slow, but the reliance on travel management companies to help properly prepare for and manage through business trips will likely grow. As we continue to navigate through the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can be sure that the way business travel is performed will change for good.

Image Credits: L.Filipe C.Sousa

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