March 7, 2021

2021: 10 reasons to be cheerful

While the new year didn't start in quite the way we’d all hoped, we should still feel positive. Here's why...

Travel management has a newfound status

“How and when employees return to travel is a CEO priority in 2021, providing a unique opportunity for travel managers to act as their trusted advisor,” says Alex Kaluzny, SVP and Chief Product and Technology Officer for Egencia. According to a survey by Egencia, 54% of travel managers now have more engagement with executive leadership, a jump of 50% compared to pre-Covid.

Virtual won’t replace business trips

“There have been a lot of predictions that the proliferation of Zoom meetings and virtual events will spell the end of the in-person business trip,” says Avi Meir, CEO and Co-Founder of TravelPerk. “But these remote meetings are transactions, rather than real interactions; they can be productive but they rely upon the goodwill and relationships built up in previous in-person meetings. Zoom is a great tool, and has saved many businesses during 2020, but sooner rather than later we will need to travel again to reconnect and renew our relationships with our customers and our colleagues.”

Brexit is done

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, the Brexit deal has finally been done and the green light has been given for businesses to venture out into the big wide world and strike new deals. “This will, of course, increase the need for travel and new destinations, further enhancing the vital role of the travel manager,’ says Clive Wratten, CEO of the BTA.

The vaccine is here

“The Covid vaccine rollout is taking place faster and with greater efficiency in the UK than any other comparable country,” says Scott Pawley, Managing Director of Global Travel Management. “British citizens are first in the queue to beat the virus and that means the UK economy will be boosted sooner than any other. British businesses will be welcoming customers, fulfilling export orders and rebuilding the world’s economy by being first-movers. English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish companies should be first in the queue for orders as the rest of the world catches up.”

There will be greater policy compliance

“The mass chaos and confusion caused by Covid-19 has strengthened the travel manager’s resolve to significantly reduce if not outlaw unmanaged travel,” says Alex Kaluzny, Egencia’s SVP and Chief Product and Technology Officer, who believes they will now have greater support from senior management. A snap poll conducted in the Egencia Connect Community revealed that where companies do not mandate the use of a TMC or travel booking tool, managers believe there is now more executive support for doing so.

A meaningful restart is only months away

Findings from the GBTA’s latest poll showed 89% of members are set to attend an in-person meeting or event with attendees outside their company by the summer and 87% expect to attend internal company meetings or events in person. “What we’re seeing in this latest poll is a number of reasons for the business travel industry to be optimistic about 2021, especially toward the middle of the year,” said Dave Hilfman, GBTA interim Executive Director. “As the vaccine rollout gains momentum and if we see a corresponding drop in positive Covid-19 test results, this survey suggests something of a return to personal connections and in-person meetings and events in the business space.”

We can make a fresh start

“Coming out of the pandemic will give a real opportunity to engage with the business travel supply chain to create a brave new world in everything from commercial model to customer experience,” says BTA CEO Clive Wratten. “This will bring a unique once-in-a-career opportunity to be part of the creating the future.”

Progress is being made on traveller testing

It’s been a long while coming, but thanks to initiatives from airlines, airports and private enterprises, effective traveller Covid-19 testing is finally becoming a reality. “Testing at points of entry through the introduction of safety protocols could enable business travel to resume safely and help kick start the economic recovery for which business travel plays such a critical role,” says Advantage Chief Executive Julia Lo Bue-Said.

Sustainability is even more firmly on the agenda

“During the pandemic, organisations have exceeded their carbon footprint goals, and as travellers we have all become more aware and committed to becoming more sustainable with our travel choices,” says Pascal Jungfer, CEO and Founder Areka Consulting. “2021 will see some recovery and business travel start to resume, corporates and travellers will be more considerate of the sustainability goals achieved during the pandemic and will be looking to ensure these can be sustained in 2021 and beyond. Sustainable travel will be integrated into travel policies, enabling travellers to make a more informed choice and corporates will be more diligent in signing of business travel trips, with business justification being the norm.”

We’re in this together

As devastating as it has been, the crisis has brought the business travel community together in ways never before seen. “From simple messages of support on LinkedIn to sharing resources and co-ordinated lobbying on key issues, people from across the sector – travel managers, suppliers, TMCs, industry organisations – have joined forces and forged partnerships and friendships that will last well beyond the pandemic,” says Bev Fearis, Editor of The Business Travel Magazine. “We’ve still got some way to go, of course, but we should start 2021 feeling proud of how we responded to the challenges thrown our way in 2020 and build on the strength of this community spirit to help us all get back on our feet and back on the road.”