When the pandemic hit and businesses shifted to remote work, I made the assessment that business travel would likely not return to levels pre-pandemic. From personal experience, I found that most business travel was unnecessary with the advancements of technology. Even when I was starting a software company over 10 years ago, we did everything online and over the phone, including finalizing contracts with fortune 100 companies. Now that companies have been forced to work remotely, the need for business travel seemed to be a thing of the past.
However, I’ve rethought my position and convinced myself that business travel is going to exceed pre-pandemic levels, but I think it will be a new form of “business” travel.
First, as I have read news about companies throughout the country deciding to allow permanent work-from-home opportunities, we have seen an exodus of residents from commercial centers to other parts of the country. For example, Microsoft recently announced that over 100 thousand employees are eligible to continue to work from home. As these employees spread across the country, we are likely to see business travel to reemerge in a new way. Employees will periodically return to their offices for varying reasons. In the past, it was likely that some employees traveled a lot for a company. I predict that in the future lots of employees will travel a little. It is this shift that will accelerate a return of business travel.
Second, I think the term business travel will take on a new meaning for the travel and transportation industry. Since employees are not constrained to a location to attend an office, I predict that there will be new form of “business” travel that consists of employees traveling more frequently to destinations that allow them to work and vacation. Employees will not be limited to the amount of traveling by vacation days granted by their employers. Instead, they will be able to travel at any point in time and continue to do their work remotely. This new opportunity will likely increase the amount of travel individuals and their families make throughout the year. While it is not the traditional definition of “business” travel, I think that business and travel will take on an additional meaning. Specifically, business travel will also define people that work while they are traveling.
Some additional things to think about.
- Employees that can work from anywhere can pick locations that have lower costs of living and increase their discretionary income. Higher discretionary income increases the likelihood of travel.
- Hotels and airlines should begin to rethink strategy to cater to these new “business” travelers. They need to redesign their offering to make sure that they provide the resources needed for employees to work while using their products and services. I don’t think the business centers in lounges and lobbies will meet their needs. Cruise ships should seriously invest in internet capacity to capture the new business travelers. It may be a way for them to bounce back faster. Innovation in the hospitality space is needed to capture the new business travelers.