Business Trips in the New Era: How Travel Has Changed & What’s in Store
Every industry was affected by the covid-19 pandemic, and most continue to feel the effects. Tourism was the third-largest export industry and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that export revenues in 2020 decreased by US$910 million.
We already know there were fewer business trips during 2020 and continuing into 2021 due to countries in lockdown and people being afraid to travel. But, with vaccines rolling out, business travel will recover and bring interesting changes.
What’s interesting is that these changes are not only a result of the pandemic but also stem from a shift in public opinion on green travel and from technological innovations.
Through the Looking Glass: What Business Travel Was Like in a Pre-Pandemic Era
Looking back, pre-pandemic business journeys were so easy, right? The most you had to worry about was:
- Getting your visa and travel papers sorted
- Packing your suitcase
- Getting to the airport on time
As an industry, here are some interesting statistics of pre-covid business travel:
- For 2018-2019, business travel was expected to grow by 6%.
- A 2017 survey by FlyAeolus reveals that 36% of business travellers travelled at least once a month by aeroplane.
- The same survey found that more than 40% of these travellers’ had the purpose of travelling to meet with a customer.
- In 2017, the spend for global travel was US$1.33 trillion, and it was expected to reach US$1.7 trillion by 2022.
Oh, how corporate travel has changed.
Looking at Business Trips Now
Ever since the pandemic has spread, business travel has mostly come to a halt. Most employees have been turning to digital tools to keep in touch with their global customers.
While Zooming certainly has pros (like looking professional from your waist up), it doesn’t emulate a corporate business trip. You miss out on the journey and the experience. More importantly, in the instance where you need to visit and see something in person, you are hampered.
No one is quite sure when business travel will fully recover, but we know how we travel has already changed. We need to wear masks, get vaccinated, social distance, and sanitize.
Some of these changes may well stay. Will these be for the benefit of business trips? Let’s take a closer look.
Fast Forward: What Does the Future Hold for Business Travellers?
Some portion of business trips will forever be gone because there are companies that have not and will not survive the pandemic. However, there are other companies that are growing and others that will be successful, ensuring the future of corporate travel.
Here are the top 5 predictions for future the business trip:
1. More and More Workcations
A “workcation” or taking a “bleisure” (business + leisure) trip is when you travel for business purposes and combine it with a vacation. You either extend your stay or travel to other destinations as part of your trip. Your two-day conference on a tropical island just became a 2-week long stay. Or, your quick corporate trip to the southern countries in Europe just extended to include London, Ireland, and France too.
During the pandemic, “workcationing” became popular. It is likely to stay, especially with more people working remotely than before and with the rise of digital nomads who may also travel for business. It comes with many benefits too, like immersing yourself more in local culture and new experiences once you switch your laptop off.
2. An Increase in Green Travel
With more and more companies confirming their commitment to net-zero carbon emissions, there is bound to be a rise in green business travel. Businesses may choose to offset their carbon footprint by investing in eco-travel when their employees need to travel for business.
Sustainable business travel includes reducing your carbon footprint to help alleviate the effects of climate change and protect the environment. However, it also extends to ensuring that local communities benefit from tourism (whether for leisure or business) and that wildlife and ecosystems are protected.
How can you ensure you go green while travelling for business?
- Using a platform on which you can book your business trip efficiently while seeing and calculating the CO2 emissions
- Choosing the greenest modes of transport where possible and hotel groups committed to reducing their ecological impact
- Opting for electric cars when you need to rent a car
- Using public transport as much as possible
- Reducing your plastic waste by reusing your water bottle, filling it up, or recycling
- Eating local and support restaurants that grow most of their food nearby
- Being a responsible business traveller by re-using your hotel towel and bedsheets
- Saving digital copies of your aeroplane tickets, hotel vouchers, and more to cut on printing
Read our article on sustainable business travel hacks for more tips!
3. Pandemic Safety Measures: A New Reality
The safety measures set in place during the covid pandemic are here to stay. Governments will continue to take the safety of their citizens – and of tourists – seriously. There are already talks of a vaccine passport, which is legal documentation to prove that you have been vaccinated for the coronavirus or other diseases.
Furthermore, social distancing on aeroplanes, public transport, and at any business events are to be expected. Companies and public places will provide sanitiser and ensure people are wearing masks. The latter depends on regulations and how effective the vaccine will prove to be.
For the time being, getting yourself tested for covid and quarantining before and after a business trip is a regulation that may stay.
4. A Focus on the Individual
Traditionally, companies made arrangements via travel agents for their employees when they needed to travel for business. Due to pre-signed deals, this restricted which airlines corporate travellers could fly with and at which hotels they could stay.
These days, it is common for businesses to give employees a travel budget. This is a trend that is likely to continue. Once they return, travellers need to submit receipts for any business-related travel expenses. They can also submit claims for out-of-pocket company expenses.
The advantage is that employees have greater freedom with regard to where they stay and how they get to their business travel destination(s). Booking transport and accommodation online is even easier and faster than before too, with apps like EnterAnGo guaranteeing a 5-minute booking service.
5. Rise in Flexibility and Travel Insurance Musts
Hotels and airlines will potentially change their booking policies to be more flexible. This means you will be able to change your travel booking without penalty and request a refund for cancelling. Customer support is likely to improve too.
Flexibility while travelling for business is a must. The pandemic has proven that travellers do not always know when travel restrictions will be implemented. Having the ability to change travel plans at the drop of a hat is a necessity.
In relation to this, travel insurance used to be an add-on and more a question of “should we get travel insurance, or should we not.” This will surely change.
The pandemic and worldwide travel restrictions have resulted in many travellers losing out on non-refundable flights, deposits, and accommodation bookings. Having travel insurance means you will be protected against unexpected changes as a result of the pandemic or something similar in the future.
Business travel has nearly made a 180-degree turn. Revisiting the past of corporate travellers and reflecting on pandemic changes brings forth a lot of consideration.
We know that business trips are here to stay. With it, comes changes like increased green travel and stricter safety measures. What other changes can you predict about future business travel? Please share with us in the comments section.