The COVID-19 pandemic has caused lasting damage to nearly every sector of the travel and tourism industry. Since the pandemic began, business travel has come to a near standstill. Boardroom meetings and conferences have been replaced by zoom calls and the business world has slowly come to terms with this significant shift over the last few months. Communication has changed and we’re adapting because it’s the only way to survive.
Business travel was an integral part of every company’s functioning. It provided a space to network, explore the world, and develop professional relationships and opportunities. While there may be a significant number of professionals waiting to resume corporate travel, others continue to remain wary of the many health risks they may be exposed to. Research by Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found that 98 percent of its member companies had canceled international business trips, and 92 percent axed all or most domestic travel. Further, more than half the respondents confirmed that they plan to resume travel in the near future.
There’s also no doubt that business travel is economically beneficial to organizations. One study, by forecasting firm Oxford Economics, found that every dollar spent on business travel resulted in $12.50 in incremental revenue. Aside from the finance of it all, for many business people, face-to-face interaction is far more preferable than a Zoom call. Meeting some helps build relationships and navigate finer details of important deals. A sense of trust and cooperation is established better when people can interact with each other in person.
What does the future of business travel look like?
With travel slowly resuming, business travel might be set to see a reinvention. Companies will begin combining multiple meetings into one trip to reduce the frequency of travel and ensure their employees stay safe and healthy. Additionally, the cost of travel might also increase as the pandemic recedes. Airlines and hotels will have to amp on their hygiene and sanitation which is bound to add to costs.
Business travel will go through an evolution, one that might actually be the need of the hour. Companies are realizing that a huge chunk of business travel can be replaced by teleconferencing owing to revolutionary strides in technology. The pandemic seems to have taught organizations that they can accomplish more with lesser costs because of teleconferencing. Additionally, employees may continue to remain way about restarting travel soon. This doesn’t take away from the fact that Sales and other specific kinds of business trips still remain important revenue drivers for companies.
How will business travel operators cope with this shift?
It’s imperative for business travel operators to use their learning throughout the COVID-19 crisis in a productive way. It is the time to relaunch their products and refresh their programs in a way that builds confidence among their customer base. Corporate travel managers will have to efficiently address anxieties and concerns of their customers and provide exhaustive information including safety checklists to ensure they feel comfortable traveling. Now is the time to make frequent business travelers aware of the many ways traveling can still be safe.
Airlines and hotels must also turn to their loyalty programs to make business travellers feel valued and special. It will encourage more people to take trips. Airlines should also make it a point to highlight the fact that flying seems to have a lower transmission rate among other ‘risky’ activities due to a combination of hospital-grade air filters and the dryness of cabin air.
The anxiety associated with the pandemic will take a while to recede; in the meanwhile, business travel will slowly find a way to get back on its feet, except this time it may have changed for good. It’s important to understand this shift and find the most effective ways to cope with it and maximize efficiency.