Are we ready for the emerging business travellers?

Hugh Batley
Hugh Batley
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The Covid-19 pandemic will leave behind lasting changes in its wake. On a global level, nothing else has triggered such a massive change in terms of lifestyles and livelihoods. Business travel of the future will not be the same, and that has a lot to do with the changing needs of emerging business travellers.

Never before have we relied this heavily on video calls and remote working technology to stay connected and productive. The travel industry is one that has endured huge losses from the global travel restrictions. But the down time has presented the industry new pockets of opportunity like hybrid travel options and greater focus on traveller safety.

Now, after more than a year in a social distancing world, we have lived an alternate possibility which leaves us asking – what will a post-Covid world be like and how long till we get there?

Virtual work will impact the post-Covid world. But technology alone cannot determine the future of work and business travel’s destiny. Ultimately, our new ways will be built upon the values of convenience and human connection. We have now worked remotely long enough to fully appreciate its benefits as well as its limitations.

As business travel returns through traffic light systems, travel bubbles and green lanes, it is time to reacquaint ourselves with business travellers and their changing needs. Here we share three business traveller profiles that we are seeing in our emerging landscape.

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The work-from-anywhere future

[5-10%] The trail blazers

This group of emerging business travellers are actively talking about “the future of work”.  They’re embracing “full-time” remote working and the idea of being digital nomads. This group will forge the way for event-focused collaborative projects. While technology for virtual work has greatly improved to become more interactive, there is still clear incremental value to physical work meetings. 

Events don’t always have to be company wide for it to be beneficial. This group will appreciate travel options that nurture collaboration in small groups of two to three people on a specific topic. For companies, travel spend here is likely to be similar to the past, but on different items. Instead, for example, of meeting in an office, the team might book a specialised apartment for the team of three to stay and work on their project.  

Senior leaders are becoming more comfortable with the idea of employees working from anywhere and the model presents benefits to both companies and employees. The appeal of the digital nomad lifestyle is work-life balance and location flexibility for employees, which can be perceived as work incentive. Companies, meanwhile, can reduce office costs and potentially benefit from a more productive workforce.

Frankly, this group of trendsetters are a small one. But their ways of working can bring exciting changes to upcoming business travel trends.

[55-75%] The inbetweeners

The bulk of the businesses fall within this group of combining virtual and physical work arrangements. For the most part, this group is still looking at spending three to four days a week in the office. So the idea of moving to Bali and working from the beach with a Bintan (local beer) in hand is unlikely for much more than a long weekend.

This group will reassess reasons for business travel within the company and make certain cuts. Many “intermediate” meetings will be carried out virtually. However, travel related to sales, supply chain, field services and crisis management will still be important to these businesses as well as regular, though not as frequent, relationship building trips..  

Among the inbetweeners, several have flagged the concerns about collaboration across offices but there has yet to be focus on “event-driven” ideas that trail blazers are discussing.  This group may opt for an initial systematic cut in business travel of 20-40% followed by some re-investment for collaboration and relationship building trips over the next 3-5 years.

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[20-35%] The traditionalists

We find a decent size group who are raring to get “back to normal”. This group is likely back to the office as much as allowed and other than initial budget constraints, business travel is expected to be largely the same for these companies.  In many cases this can be because they were relatively frugal on travel before the pandemic – so they often were already focused on the idea of purposeful travel.   

Travel frequency and volume for this group may be impacted by complexity of travel and the overall business situation. However organisational culture and past travel habits will be a driver back towards travel as usual.  We predict this group will reduce travel 15-25% in the short term, recovering and potentially growing over the next 2 years. 

How can business travel be better in the future?

The first order of business for the travel industry is to address the very reason travel came to a halt in 2020. Country-specific travel restrictions came about to keep us safe from COVID-19. Vaccines are alleviating the threat of the disease, but taking care of traveller safety will be pivotal to reviving travel. Prioritising this basic need will be a game-changer for travel solutions in the coming months. 

New business traveller profiles call for more innovative travel options to better meet their needs. Remote working has offered employees new possibilities. We believe hotels, co-working spaces and airlines will eventually expand their offerings to deliver the ultimate work experience for business travellers. 

Overall, we can expect greater resilience from both business and the travel industry. Solid business travel management will help you manage traveller risks and cushion against unexpected travel shocks. This includes using a flexible solution that accommodates last minute cancelations as countries continue to reassess their travel restrictions.

Is your business prepared to travel again?

We are excited for what is to come in business travel and would love to hear from you about your business needs. Book a demo to talk to us or start a free trial to see how TruTrip can add value to your business travel programme.