Business travel

Business travel is back. Here’s what you need to know now

Experts have predicted business travel will return by fall, but a recent Global Rescue survey found business travelers are already taking off, roads and rails.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Mars via Unsplash

The pandemic has crushed business travel for more than a year, but new information reveals road warriors are returning to the skies, roads and rails for business and sales meetings. Experts predicts that business travel would return by fall, but a recent Global Rescue survey found that more than half of business travelers (61 percent) have already made their first multi-day domestic business trip.

Business travel is making a comeback due to rising COVID-19 vaccination levels and the gradual reduction in government quarantine and testing requirements. Nonetheless, barriers to post-pandemic travel persist, especially when it comes to international business travel.

According to the survey, which interviewed more than 1700 current and former members of Global Rescue between July 27 and July 31, 2021, 17 percent of business travelers have already taken their first multi-day international business trip of the year. A little over a quarter (27 percent) expect to do so by March 2022.

Business leaders and human resources managers are shifting work schedules from work-at-home mandates caused by a pandemic to hybrid models with staff working remotely on some days and from the office on other days. If the pandemic has shown anything about remote working, it’s that productive work can be done from almost anywhere, and people are going to benefit.

The survey results reflect this expectation. More than half of respondents (54 percent) who travel for business have reported that their company uses, or will use, a hybrid model of on-site and off-site work. But most of the business travelers surveyed (61 percent) said a hybrid work model would not reduce their business trips despite the availability of online conferencing apps like Zoom, Cisco’s Webex, and Microsoft Teams.

The reason is simple. Not all types of work are equally effective if key employees work remotely from their internal and external counterparts. More … than 90 percent of business travelers surveyed said that in-person business and sales meetings were “definitely” or “generally” more successful than video conferencing. Less than 9 percent said video conferencing was more successful than face-to-face business and sales meetings.

While videoconferencing likely reduces the total volume of business travel in the short term, there is no substitute for being in the same room with others. According to the survey, video conferencing will have a mixed impact on business travelers.

Thirty-five percent of business travelers said they expected video conferencing to replace about half of routine business travel in the future. Another 27 percent said they expected to use video conferencing sparingly and resume routine business travel for in-person business and sales meetings as the pandemic health threat diminishes. Sixteen percent said they believe video conferencing will replace most business travel for in-person business meetings and sales meetings. More than a fifth (21%) stated that they do not use video conferencing in their business.

The biggest concerns for future work-related trips among business travelers are quarantine, coronavirus infection, border closures, poor medical infrastructure at destination, and insufficient emergency response from their company to help in a medical or safety emergency.

Never have business leaders been more aware of and more concerned with managing travel risks and the duty of care they owe to their employees on the move. Today, the risk profile of business travel is different and awareness among business travelers is at an all time high.

Mitigating these risks is the responsibility of an organization’s security manager, travel manager, and human resources manager, who are responsible for developing and overseeing the policies, programs, and logistics that protect staff on the move. Employees look to them to do everything possible to ensure their safety. CEOs also rely on them, as they have a duty of care responsibility to their employees, to take care of them and to avoid exposing them to unnecessary or undue risk.

Dan Richards is the CEO of Global Rescue, the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. He currently sits on the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board of the US Department of Commerce and is a global member of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

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