It looks like businesses will get to scratch the travel itch pretty soon as business travel is making a comeback.
Companies that have grown accustomed to working remotely and staying home for the last 17 months are now champing at the bit to get on the road again. We’re all getting a little tired of virtual meetings and conferences. Companies are determining which business trips are needed right now and have begun making plans again.
Alison Taylor, who is the chief customer offer of American Airlines Group, told the Wall Street Journal that 47 of the airline’s 50 largest corporate accounts have mentioned they want to travel again this year.
“They’re getting their office opened, feeling comfortable with that as the first steps, and then travel comes after that,” she said.
While business travel is still 70% less than where we were in 2019, U.S. airlines are seeing more and more business trips being booked in recent weeks. This is encouraging as business travel is a major source of revenue for these airlines. Scott Kirby, the Chief Executive for United, told the Wall Street Journal there is pent-up demand for business travel.
Salespeople are getting back out on the road, regional managers are visiting their stores and offices again, and consultants are making face-to-face visits at their clients’ offices again.
Still, other travel experts are not so sure. Despite the fact that conferences like TED are returning to in-person gatherings this summer, and Las Vegas and other cities are hoping to invite industry trade shows back to their convention centers, some business travelers are seeing, well, let’s call it “travel hesitancy.”
Scott McCartney, who reports on airlines and travel for the Wall Street Journal, told WRAL, “It has been far worse for airlines than 9/11. It is going to go on for several years.”
One of the issues is that many of the business centers are not accessible yet. Some airlines are focused more on leisure destinations, and many people haven’t returned back to their own offices yet, so there’s no point in even traveling to meet someone in their office. That means business travelers are making more casual visits, meeting in coffee shops and coworking spaces.
Finally, we may see new forms of business travel these days, as our concept of the office and working have been redefined. After all, we found out that it wasn’t critical that we work from the office five days a week from 9 to 5. Work still got done and people were still productive. And the realities of remote work opened up so many new possibilities including people moving to much less expensive cities and states to live.
As a result, business travel may no longer just be the sales and marketing staff hitting the road for a sales trip or trade show. It could be the remote workers traveling back to the office once or twice a month. It could be all the offsite workers traveling to a different place so they can all meet and work together.
Rather than having a large majority of employees based in on-site locations, companies may face a distributed workforce across the country, bringing teams together for in-person meetings only when vital to a project or initiative. A pre-pandemic “off-site” gathering — where office-based employees travel as a group to a non-office location — could be replaced with an “on-site” retreat, with workers across the country converging on the company’s headquarters.
Of course, we want to see business travel take off again ourselves because frankly a few of us around the office are itching to get out again. But as an industry, we’re still waiting to see what the next several months bring us.
If you want to travel for business this summer, just take the proper precautions, make sure you’re vaccinated, and use travel providers that you know have been taking special care to clean and sanitize their facilities.
What are your business travel plans? Are you going to be hitting the road soon or are you staying home a little longer? Or have you already gone on a business trip or two? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.