Business trips will be fewer in number but more purposeful, according to a panel of European business leaders responsible for corporate travel.
Based on the insights of a panel put together by hotel giant Accor, financial budgets are being replaced by carbon budgets and wellbeing is high on the agenda.
Business travel will remain at a lower level than pre-pandemic, with Accor’s Sophie Hulgard, Senior Vice President Sales Northern Europe, expecting 20% fewer business trips to happen in 2022 compared to 2019.
Another member of the panel, who spoke at a recent Masters of Travel 2022 debate, believes there would be 50% fewer trips with technology replacing non-critical travel.
Delegates said engaging employees and motivating them to get back on the road, when they are now used to working from home, is a priority for businesses in 2022 because they believe that productivity and revenue go up when people connect in person.
According to separate Accor research, workers expect to make 25% more revenue through face-to-face meetings than virtual ones, achieve three times as much from them, and benefit from a range of wellbeing advantages including much-missed social interaction with colleagues and associates.
It also found professionals anticipate they will make an average of 23% more deals a year when they are able to speak to their contacts face-to-face, rather than using only video or phone conferencing options.
The Covid-19 pandemic has stimulated the emergence of ‘mindful travel’, where business travellers aim to make travel count professionally, economically, sustainably and personally.
This will see companies compare hotel and transport options using carbon calculators, promoting longer stays, even if this means combining work with leisure, and not accepting ‘green washing’, with one delegate making it very clear that if it is discovered that environmental claims are false “the backlash will be huge”.
Sophie Hulgard, Senior Vice President Sales Northern Europe, Accor, said: “Around 20% of business meetings may have gone forever, to be replaced by virtual equivalents or the realisation that they simply weren’t necessary in the first place. Instead we are seeing the emergence of a much more purposeful business travel sector where companies want to maximise the value of each trip to reconnect teams, grow culture, strategise, close deals, and strengthen bonds with employees.
“Business travel enables real connections and has incredible power and value, not just in financial terms but – in the new post-pandemic mindset – increased employee satisfaction and wellbeing and therefore loyalty to employers. But the future of business travel must banish inconsequential trips and replace them with business-critical travel that is sustainably planned and delivers for the employee, the employer and the planet.”