The Future of Corporate Travel: How to Plan Through a Pandemic

The global COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world of business. Nationwide lock downs meant that many workers had to try working from home for the very first time. The fears that this wasn’t an effective way of working largely failed to materialize, and as a result, it seems like remote work is here to stay.

This remote working revolution coupled with the pandemic also has complicated things regarding corporate travel. People are less inclined to risk travel due to the continuing coronavirus threat. This means that many of these business meetings are now taking place on zoom.

So will these changes be temporary, or are we looking at a permanent shift in global attitudes towards the business trip? Read on to find out more about the future of business travel.

Business Class 

The concept of business class airline travel emerged relatively recently. Business-class was created to bridge the gap between first and economy class. Primarily it is intended to be used by business professionals (hence the name).

While travelers in the other classes will sleep, drink wine or watch movies, people in business class will often use their travel time to work on projects. Until recently, business class was an incredibly popular way to fly.

In 2019 companies spent around 1.3 trillion dollars flying their executives and workers around the globe, but the disruption of COVID-19 means that a lot of the travel has stopped.

COVID-19 Disruption

The national lock downs in most countries severely disrupted these business flights. For a long time in 2020, it was virtually impossible to go on a business trip of any description. This eas because of the stringent lock down policies.

In many countries, you would need to quarantine for many days on arrival. If you’re a busy business executive, this simply wasn’t viable. Now with many of the lock down restrictions lifted, business travel hasn’t really bounced back like many people thought it would.

Some commentators such as Bill Gates believe business travel will never go back to previous levels. According to him, at least 50% of business travel will be gone permanently. This is because people are moving to online alternatives such as Zoom or Microsoft teams.

On the other hand, other commentators predict that business travel will bounce back.

As of right now, it seems that things could go either way. The 2008 financial crisis had a significant impact on business class travel, and many predicted that the industry would never recover. Despite those predictions, business class travel did end up bouncing back.

Time will tell if this will be the case with the current situation.

Companies Saving Costs

Another problem that has arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic is that many businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Supply chain disruptions and lockdowns have meant many companies are making significantly less money than projected.

This means belts need to be tightened, and cuts need to be made in certain areas. Business travel is a likely candidate for the chopping block. It’s easy to justify cutting back on sending executives abroad because of the inherent risks associated with global travel.

The remote working revolution means that most companies are now much more open to doing business meetings via Zoom. In the past, this may have been seen as an insult, but it may be the standard for the future.

Corporate Housing

For many companies, Zoom meetings might not be viable. For example, there are security concerns associated with online meetings. If you have sensitive customer secrets, it might only make sense to do in-person meetings.

If this is the case, you’ll need to figure out ways to facilitate in-person meetings with a minimum amount of risks. For example, you probably want to avoid more busy airports if possible, and you should also avoid using hotels.

One way around using hotels is to book affordable corporate housing. This enables you to skip out on staying in crowded hotels. Workers might also prefer staying in these kinds of accommodations as they offer more privacy and flexibility.

The Future Is Uncertain

It’s still quite unclear what the world will look like when we get out of the COVID-19 era. The only sure thing is that it will be a very different world from the one we had in 2019.

Remote working has finally proven itself as a serious way to get work done. However, it’s not clear if people will still be happy with remote working arrangements in the future.

While business travel is once again possible, there’s always the possibility that new lockdowns will be introduced. A vaccine-resistant variant of COVID-19 could emerge, which would essentially put us right back where we started.

Due to all of this uncertainty, many companies are sticking with online meetings for the time being.

Virtual Reality?

New innovations are popping up everywhere to help us deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 world. One possible development is virtual reality meetings. These meetings may use virtual reality technology such as the Oculus Rift to take address some of the shortcomings of zoom calls.

These virtual reality solutions aim to create a virtual meeting room where you can make virtual eye contact with other people. It’s still not clear how viable this technology is, but it could make online meetings much more enjoyable than using services like Zoom or MS Teams.

Is Corporate Travel Here to Stay?

It’s still uncertain how viable corporate travel will be in the future. While it’s possible that corporate travel will bounce back, it probably won’t be the same as before.

For example, companies may prefer using dedicated corporate housing rather than sending their workers to stay in hotels. Many companies might abandon travel altogether and use online meeting systems instead.

If you want to learn more about some other business-related topics, check out the rest of our blog articles.

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