Updated: Apr 13
In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down travel worldwide. Since then, it’s become popular to talk about the future of business travel. One thing is certain – corporate travel will change and adapt, but it is definitely not dead.
For the most part, lockdowns and travel bans have been lifted as we have learned and adapted over time, figuring out what precautions to take to keep people safe – even on a crowded transatlantic flight. Sun Tzu, the Chinese military strategist, said: “In the midst of chaos there is opportunity”. Just like him, we see a silver lining in any situation. Businesses are changing the way they do things. That’s why we should embrace change and make the most out of it. Read on to learn more about:
How Companies Adapted to the Pandemic
Today, most companies are holding video conferences instead of sending people across the globe for a routine meeting. In North America, business travel declined by 79% from April to December in 2020. A recent U.S. survey found that only 26% of small businesses intend to pursue any type of travel in the next six months.
Some have slashed travel budgets, realizing that business can be carried out more efficiently with fewer business trips. With such companies as Amazon saving $1 billion in travel expenses during the pandemic, it makes sense to continue pursuing global business over Zoom – at least in some instances.
Investing in a New Kind of Corporate Travel
However, though many companies have done just fine with reduced business travel, hopping on a plane still has its place. Zoom is great, but it doesn’t provide quite the same connection as face-to-face interaction. Travel has an important function – it helps businesses strengthen connections, improve communication, and carry out projects more successfully.
Since many companies have reduced their corporate real estate costs, allowing employees to work from home, there’s plenty of room in the budget to invest into a different kind of corporate travel that is centered around providing employees with a better experience. Much like having an office space with lots of perks, better business travel provides a way for companies to boost competitiveness and build loyalty.
What the Future of Business Travel Looks Like
Here are some of the ways companies are currently looking at business travel, along with a few calculated forecasts of the future.
Less Frequent Trips
If you’re getting tired of being home, you’re not alone. In past years, you might have flown across the globe just to attend a meeting. Now, you might not even commute into the office most days, let alone fly across the pond.
To keep reaping the benefits of corporate travel without the price tag, companies are opting to send employees on less frequent trips – for example, one big trip a month rather than a short trip multiple times per month. This may not be great news for airlines, but it can be a way for corporations to save money. Plus, instead of feeling burned out from constant travel, employees may again look forward to traveling. They may find that the occasional business trip to be a welcome break from the monotony of staying home.
Travel for Team Building
Corporate travel can be a way to invest in employees and company culture. People may roll their eyes at team building exercises, but if it allows them to escape the office and relax in a sunny climate, it’s a whole different story!
Experiential meetings are a great way to create travel experiences that feel less like an obligation and more like a perk of the job. The idea of experiential meetings stems from human-centered design – putting people first. It can help bring together scattered remote workers and give them in-person bonding opportunities while balancing work events and meetings with fun and relaxation.
Travel for team building is something that we’re likely to see a lot more of in the coming years. It does double-duty, providing employees with a much-needed break while also making an investment in company culture. It’s a win-win.
Making Travel Easier
With fewer trips on the horizon, businesses may reallocate some of the budget to make traveling less stressful and more rewarding for employees.
Right now, many people feel uncertain when it comes to travel. Is it actually safe to crowd onto a plane with passengers from all over the world? Plus, many people in the workforce have responsibilities at home that make it hard to spend time on the road. Keeping these challenges in mind, today’s companies should work on making corporate travel easier.
One way to do this is for business to offer its employees a personal travel concierge. Once considered a luxury, concierge services may soon become more of a standard in business travel as trips are reviewed in quality, not quantity. Travel concierges are a great asset when it comes to expertly planning flights, cars, accommodations, and more importantly staying within budget, get flagged as a VIP on corporate travel and adhering to company travel policy.
Another way companies can help their employees out is to make childcare funds a part of their employees’ travel budgets. Parents are often under pressure to find childcare while they’re out of town. Having extra room in the budget for childcare can help take some of the pressure off families with children.
Pushing for Sustainability
Another challenge in today’s climate: as people become more aware of the environmental impacts of travel, it becomes necessary to push for greener travel. Air travel has a massive carbon footprint, and corporate travel is responsible for quite a bit of it.
With the impressive buying power of the corporate travel industry ($1.4 trillion, according to the Global Business Travel Association) comes a responsibility to invest in more sustainable, energy-efficient travel. Companies everywhere are pledging to reduce their carbon footprints as experts warn about the imminent dangers of climate change and pollution.
If companies are interested in creating a better future, they should be holding airlines and hotels to better standards of sustainability and helping to advance the practices and technologies that will help reduce environmental impact.