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Is business travel dead?

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Over the past few years, not only the raw materials market suffered a major collapse due to Covid-19, but also business travel around the globe. This can be seen very well in the figures, like the decrease in total business travel spend of 52% with £ 70 million just in the United States. Whereas hotels, airlines, meeting places suffered from the lack of passengers, online programmes such as Zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams gained new importance and became an integral part of every company. Nevertheless, a lot has happened in the last few months, especially in the medical field, because new vaccines have entered the market. Now many countries have more than half of the population vaccinated, which leads to a decrease in cases of infection. This raises the question of whether business travel will return to the usual passenger numbers and become the way it used to be?

Building relationships with Zoom?

Although Zoom can largely replicate the experience of a face-to-face meeting, there is nothing better for many business people than meeting clients in person, especially when it comes to building relationships, understanding complicated processes or the philosophy of a company, where a large part of feelings and emotions are involved, which may suffer during visual calls. Even the simplest gestures like handshakes help to build and strengthen trust and relationships, a quality that is difficult to achieve with online meeting programmes. Besides the personal development of professionals through travel as well as the expansion of the network, various studies indicate a strong investment, especially in terms of revenue. 

Shift to environment and well-being

Nevertheless, Covid-19 and the related shift to home office and online meetings has made some companies aware of the benefits and facilitation afforded by cancelled business travel from a corporate and employee perspective. Beginning with employee wellbeing, the reduction of travel in the course of business has led to an increased positive response among associates, particularly on their health such as improved sleep, balance and reduced stress. Not only did the company experience this, but also the reduced and flexible use of resources such as finances, but also the workload in the HR department, because there was a sharp drop in travel-related bookings. In this context, the employees in particular benefit from being able to decide for themselves whether and when they want to join the online meeting, thus creating a form of freedom and self-determination. Besides the fact that less unproductive time occurs during an online meeting, some companies also consider the environmentally friendly idea of scheduling less business travel. Since these particular times of closed borders and travel bans, have clearly demonstrated that a company can function perfectly well without any business travel. 

In this context, companies may focus increasingly on aspects such the environment and employee well-being, rather than business travel. Meaning, low-value travel tends to be rejected, and far fewer occasional travellers feel the need to travel. Those who do travel are considered as important, subsequently causing in a reduced focus on travel costs. Since companies worry less about these expenses, airlines are able to raise the prices for business travellers. However, these airlines as well as many companies still expect a reduced amount of business travel, due to the focus on other aspects and the still uncertain times.

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