Now that the end of the pandemic is visible, people are ready to get back to normal. Part of that normal is the ability to fly anywhere in the world. Whether personal or business, the pandemic curtailed the travel industry in a short time.
Because vaccinations, hygiene protocols, and other measures have brought down infection rates to get the virus under control, travel can continue. But your next trip may not look exactly like the last one you took more than a year ago.
The Rise Of Virtual Meetings
Before March of 2020, anyone who knew about Zoom already used it at work. Suddenly, everyone knew what it was. People who didn’t know were taught by those who used it regularly.
No longer was it necessary to travel for meetings when you could meet virtually. Companies sent their employees home and conducted business online. Lawyers who spent considerable time flying to different courtrooms could now appear in court from home. Work trips curtailed considerably in favor of the Zoom meeting.
Remote work was already gaining traction among both employers and employees. For companies, curtailing work travel also meant considerable savings as well as a reduction in a company’s “carbon footprint.” Companies could also contribute to sustainability, which included reducing their office space and decentralizing the workspace.
Before the pandemic, remote workers made trips for in-person activities quarterly, twice yearly, or yearly. While companies like Facebook and Twitter allow their employees to continue working remotely, other companies are beginning to re-open offices and welcome people back.
Remote work is likely to be an integral part of working, including virtual meetings. This trend may translate into fewer work-related trips.
What will the return of travel look like?
In both the US and Europe, business travel is beginning to rebound. Even with pandemic restrictions and other limitations, domestic travel in the US is now about 75% of pre-pandemic levels. Many airlines and other travel-related companies have begun raising new capital to invest in the post-COVID travel industry.
Immediately, work travel will be the priority, with a focus on increased cleanliness. International trecs may temporarily require “vaccine passports” for the time being. Travel businesses should keep their focus on cleanliness and continue to offer contactless options.
Less is More for Traveling for Business
With both hybrid and virtual workplaces, remote work is now firmly entrenched in corporate America. Work travel will face further scrutiny on travel expenses. Look for business travel priorities based on costs versus revenue and the least number of travelers to achieve the same results. The best consideration will be how much of a return on investment the trip brings to the company.
Many companies that embraced the new changes realized many business meetings didn’t require transit to happen. Some industry experts believe that business travel has peaked and may never return to pre-pandemic levels.
Other Changes to Expect:
Cleanliness and hygienic facilities will continue to be a top priority. Airlines, hotels, and other travel-based businesses continue their emphasis on cleaning and sanitization of facilities and vehicles to lower the risk of beginning a new pandemic.
- Smaller Travel Budgets
Companies have realized the value and savings of replacing trips with more virtual meetings. These companies will be reluctant to return to previous levels of spending for these expenses. It is especially true in light of other unexpected savings like reductions in overhead from remote workers. Business trips will rebound, but probably not to the levels that they were pre-COVID.
- Rental Cars Replacing Plane Trips
More business travelers are looking at rental cars as an alternative to flying domestically. Rental cars are clean and sanitized and belong to the traveler alone while they need them. The rental car allows travelers to skip crowded airports and long wait times in favor of driving the same distance.
- Fewer International Flights Available
Airline cutbacks of both flights and personnel are a direct effect of the decrease in business travel. Even with the return to flight, international travel will see fewer flights. It’s is especially true of direct flights. Fewer flights will mean fewer seats available, especially with an empty center seat for social distancing. These reductions will likely lead to an increase in international fares and a preference for domestic travel.
- Flexibility in Booking
Flexibility in booking, changes, and cancellations has been on the traveler’s wish list for some time. With travel restrictions changing quickly, airlines have begun allowing travelers to book their trips now and avoid potential issues later.
- More Virtual Events
Virtual events will continue to be the predominant form of get-togethers for some time. However, as restrictions ease, in-person events will begin to return. For the time being, that could include masks and social distancing. Many companies may prefer their employees to continue to attend virtually instead of in person.
- Travel Insurance Will Be the Norm
Travel insurance will become the norm instead of an add-on expense. During the height of the pandemic, many travelers saw a loss after canceled flights, hotel reservations, and deposits for travel. Companies will require business travelers to obtain travel insurance to protect the company against sudden cancellations.
While a clear picture of future travel isn’t yet available, the trends that began during the pandemic will likely continue to evolve. As travel companies move beyond the restrictions, the shifts in travel will become more granular.
The lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic will continue well into the future as airlines, hotels, and other travel businesses welcome back travelers to the pre-pandemic levels.
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