The COVID-19 pandemic brought business travel to a standstill and it has still not returned to the pre-Covid levels. But it made one thing clear-corporate travel will face trouble to return to the normal level than leisure and international would lag domestic. The first half of 2021 bought some relief to the US travel suppliers but looks like we are just where we started from. After a successful vaccine rollout and travel designated as safe for vaccinated people, we saw a return of domestic leisure travel but corporate travel is going through a slower return.
Trade shows and conferences account for a large number of business trips but they remain virtual currently. A lot of offices are still closed which limits the corporate travel for the employers and employees. Companies find it difficult to ask their employees to take work trips and many have not yet opened the doors to employees. This is temporary but for how long, one cannot predict.
2021 was a year of only essential travel and the closure of offices convinced employees to work effectively and travel less. Conferences have begun their comeback and may accelerate mid-2022. Some workers have also returned to offices and many will do so this year. The uptick in corporate travel will follow but it will take time. The competition, as well as growth imperatives, will lead to the resumption of corporate travel but it will be reevaluated on a case-to-case basis. Here is how the future of business travel will look like.
Employee well-being will be crucial
The well-being of employees will take the front seat and it will continue to rise in importance as companies focus on preserving safety and health. Due to a rise in the number of restrictions around business travel, we will see domestic business travel bouncing back sooner than international. We will also see leisure travel being the first one to revive because people have high autonomy here and there is already a huge pent-up demand. A lot of people haven’t seen their loved ones in more than a year and this is the first trip they would like to make as soon as possible.
Health and safety measures at the hotels
A lot of hotels have responded efficiently to COVID-19 protocols. Despite the rise in cases across the globe, there is a lot of optimism towards travel and a consumer desire to take that trip. Maintaining the right protocols is important to make people feel comfortable when traveling. We will see a lot of hotels with strict policy guidelines about safety and health measures. These measures will remain a big part of the hospitality industry throughout 2022.
Less number of trips, longer stays
This may not be directly relevant to business travel but it will become a part of it in the near term. We will see fewer trips but longer stays post-pandemic. Employees will try to amalgamate different journeys into a single one and they will try to mix business and leisure. The professionals at a car rental service in Chicago have seen a lot of business travelers adding personal days to enjoy the experience. There could be a two day work trip with another two-days of personal trip.
Lesser need to travel for meetings
The pandemic has taught us the ease of working from the comfort of home. We no longer need to sit face to face with an employee to discuss work. The growth in technology has allowed for a hybrid work environment which means a lesser requirement to travel for meetings. When once it might have been five, now it is two with three virtually.
Lower need for internal travel
The demand for business travel will be low for training and large events. Such events will have to be split virtually. We will see smaller conferences and more virtual meetings. A lot of offices have not opened the doors for employees yet and they will not be willing to have people coming in from across the country.
Travel has taken a backseat since the onset of the pandemic and the industry is still struggling to get back to normal levels. Whether it is business travel or leisure travel, there will be Covid protocols to be followed. Certain changes in the travel industry will continue to remain throughout the year and we may not see travel pickup to the pre-pandemic level. Proactive vision is essential to understand how to retain customers and build customer loyalty platforms that work for business travelers.
The future of corporate travel will be different and it is important that all of us understand and embrace it. One must not forget the importance of maintaining hygiene and safety norms when traveling.