July 17, 2024

Internal travel is not dead

GBT's Rachel Tonge shares insight on a report which outlines how internal travel and meetings can help companies meet five essential workplace needs as we emerge from the pandemic

In this post-pandemic era travel and meetings have gained new purpose and value. They are helping businesses thrive as they respond to the new ways that people are working, living and interacting. This is the focus of our recent white paper Business Travel is the Centre of the New Company Culture, developed in partnership with cultural analysis firm Cultique. 

The report cites McKinsey research that found 99% of large companies have committed to hybrid work plans. This resetting of operating models in many organisations means greater focus on how team members need to interact. Companies are re-evaluating the importance of internal interactions for team cohesion, productivity, engagement and people’s welfare. Our research for the 2022 Global Meetings & Events Forecast found the internal meetings category is expected to show most growth this year. 

Recovery and resilience

As the world is moving from a pandemic to an endemic mindset, businesses are looking forward and asking how they can meet the challenges of the post-pandemic recovery. They are exploring more flexible work practices, allowing more remote and hybrid working that supports better work-life balance and productivity and reduces time spent commuting. Attracting and retaining the talent companies need to grow and thrive is a priority in a tight labour markets, as is boosting employee wellbeing, and preventing burnout and attrition. 

This white paper provides guidance on how travel and meetings programmes can help companies respond to these challenges, with a focus on five essential workplace needs with actionable takeaways for corporate decision-makers and travel managers:

  • Fuel corporate culture: using travel and meetings to reunite employees, enable engagement and effective collaboration, and create a cohesive culture.
  • Incentivise workers’ wellbeing: wellness perks to boost employee morale, wellbeing, and help improve work-life balance.
  • Drive personal and professional development: create opportunities for employees to continue to learn and enjoy new experiences.
  • Boost employees’ autonomy: giving travellers more control over an improved and more personalised end-to-end travel experience. 
  • Showcase company values: using travel and meetings policies and vendor relationships to enact your company’s purpose and objectives in areas such as sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion.

The ‘Chief Journey Officer’ mindset

The ‘traditional’ travel manager role is expanding and becoming more intertwined with corporate teams in HR, recruitment, real-estate, mobility, security, sustainability, diversity and inclusion. 

This is happening at the same time as post-pandemic global business travel continues to recover, creating a dynamic, changing environment of new challenges, and opportunities to differentiate. These are challenges and opportunities for all of us working in the field of travel and meetings, both buyers and service providers across the value chain. 

The white paper recommends that business leaders and travel buyers embrace the mindset of a Chief Journey Officer. Doing this underlines the integral role of travel with more distributed workforces. 

We are seeing evolution in some customers’ travel and meetings strategies. For example, re-evaluating return on investment (ROI) perspectives, factoring in company culture and sustainability and looking at offering internal travel budgets to remote workers, so they can spend time with leaders and teams. 

The Chief Journey Officer approach reframes how an organisation views and experiences travel – no longer simply as a transactional commodity but instead as a transformational investment for building and maintaining a robust corporate culture, driving resilience and long-term success. 

Rachel Tonge is UK Vice President & General Manager for American Express GBT