As Covid-19 brought the world to a standstill, one industry was struck the harder than the rest: business travel. For months upon months, many businesses were forced to press pause on all but the most essential travel.
Shows and exhibitions went virtual, meetings were held on Zoom, and it’s fair to say that a personal human touch was lost. This was especially challenging for workers in jobs that require a physical presence - from the construction sector through to the road-heavy workforce.
But as we find our feet in the ‘new normal’ and try to get back to where we once left off, it’s clear that things have changed. And while virtual and online contact has risen to the challenge, there are some situations where face-to-face contact is essential. This is why business travel must once again be prioritised, for ourselves, for our businesses, and for the economy. Let’s take a closer look.
We can say with some ease that there’s no compensation for face-to-face contact when it comes to getting business done. A Harvard report on business found that in-person requests were 34 times more successful than those by email. As sociable creatures, human interaction and relationship building is integral to the way we communicate and operate.
Take this away, and all you’re left with is a perfunctory process.
If you want to cut that deal, get that contract, or galvanise a team, you’re best bet is to be there in person.
Some jobs are not desk-based. This was seen during the pandemic, when roughly only a quarter of people were able to work from home. For those out in the field, such as the construction sector, it highlighted the importance of business travel for their roles. As the industry bounces back, so must investment in business travel, and this includes removing any of the barriers to achieve it.
New procedures and procurement measures adopted during the pandemic have had a knock-on effect on this, making sign-off slow and challenging. In some cases, business trips have been replaced by online meetings, or cancelled altogether. Travel managers have their role to play, as we pivot once again. Introducing an online travel booking system, and having a corporate policy book can certainly help get business travel back on track.
Because as we know, missing business travel is a missed opportunity. Whether attending a trade show, meeting a client, or attending on-site builds, not being present means missed opportunities.
For the economy
Let’s not underestimate the benefits of business tourism to the country either. Looking at the statistics from the World Travel & Tourism Council, business travel experienced a loss of 60% in 2020, and recovery since has been slow. Even though there are positive signs of growth and consumer confidence returns, forecasts still expect growth to be up just 34% this year. And worldwide the loss is immense, with the economy losing $810.7 billion due to the pandemic.
All this has a huge knock-on effect on the way we do business, both with inbound and local business travel playing its role. As we know, without a buoyant economy, businesses are forced to make difficult decisions. In short, investment in travel is essential in order for recovery and growth.
Over the past few years, the pendulum has swung in favour of the professional, making it a candidate-bias market. This means that companies have to work even harder to recruit and keep good talent.
Considering that business travel is widely considered as a perk, along with ‘bleisure travel’, then budgets need to be allocated accordingly. Roughly a third of millennial and Gen Z professionals wouldn’t accept a job unless business travel is involved.
As a final thought - and as the saying goes – travel broadens the mind. And this is certainly true in business too. It enriches us with new experiences, and gives us the first-hand experience to appreciate how other teams operate and the challenges they face. Furthermore, it also offers us a new and refreshing perspective on matters, that no virtual meeting could ever replicate. Perhaps, this might be the richest of all benefits of travelling for work.
Roomex is one of the leading online travel platforms equipping businesses with the tools they need for business success.
November 2, 2022