The Post-Pandemic Business Travel Landscape
How workers travel, do business, and go to work has probably changed forever. Here are the trends we’re seeing in the post-pandemic business travel landscape.
>> Related: Business Travel Trends in 2023 <<
Types of post-pandemic business travel
Internal meetings include kickoffs, key internal meetings, or incentive trips. Now that so many employees are remote, we’re also seeing remote workers or teams coordinating regular face-time and in-person meetings.
As office square footage slims down, large in-person meetings may no longer fit within HQ. Get creative when renting meeting space (including co-working spaces, libraries, community centers, or even movie theaters). And if you’re headquartered in an expensive city, it may be cheaper to congregate in a smaller destination city.
Sometimes employees (and their families) are stationed in a new office or location for a month, quarter, or year at a time. Extensive stays warrant thoughtful planning so the employee can thrive and the company isn’t paying exorbitant rates. Carefully consider how you’ll provide your employee with a kitchen, laundry, gym, company car, parking, security, visa, tax support, and even childcare or schooling.
Pre-pandemic, the largest travel budget was usually for pipeline building: small teams were consistently on the road for demos, pitches, customer check-ins, and trade shows. With so many prospect and customer employees working remotely, we expect pipeline travel to remain stunted. Ensure your reps are fluent in their virtual meeting tech stack, and crowdsource ways to host memorable sales calls – sending a care package never hurts! When you do consider visiting a client or prospect in person, it’s important for account executives and managers to sync on the purpose and desired outcomes of the trip, so productivity on the road, and the return on employee time and company money, can be maximized.
Virtual training remains very sticky because it’s vastly cheaper. But virtual training is consistently less effective, and virtual attendees are more easily distracted. If your business is reliant on thorough implementation or usage, get your consultants, implementation teams, trainers, and other members of professional services teams on the road.
Whether it’s an industry conference, seminar, or formal training, employees who pursue professional development tend to have higher productivity and job satisfaction, and lower turnover. Considering it costs “6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to replace them,” professional development budgets have fantastic ROI.
What about bleisure?
Any of these trips can be extended to include leisure (i.e. “bleisure travel”), but as digital nomads increase, we’re seeing more employees booking extensive trips that are lightly anchored by face-to-face meetings and events.
Post-pandemic business travel challenges
While there is no longer a shortage of travelers, TSA, airlines, and hotels are struggling to find staff after layoffs and early retirements. The net impact on business travelers? One in four flights have been delayed in 2023. Business travelers must:
- Plan for long check-in and security lines at the airport, even with TSA Pre-Check.
- Expect flights to be delayed – be conservative with your itinerary, and don’t schedule optimistic meetings or airport transfers.
Inflation and fuel costs have deeply impacted the travel market in 2023. On average, travel is costing ~30% more per trip. Managers can’t rely on pre-pandemic travel budgets. Instead, teams will have to triage trips or re-allocate budgets. A travel platform that can provide dynamic budgets that reflect real-time market rates will greatly help your team plan for travel proactively and set realistic expectations for costs.
Vaccine, testing, masking, and quarantine restrictions
In the US, most masking and large gathering restrictions have eased. But international restrictions change constantly. Ensure your international travelers are familiar with requirements for both leaving and returning to the United States.
The latest Omicron subvariant is the most transmissible version of Covid yet. While cases are dramatically lower in the United States, hundreds of thousands of cases are still reported every week. Communicate guidelines for employees who become sick while traveling, and supply staff with quality masks and rapid tests. Hosting a super spreader event or passing Covid to a prospect or client is terrible PR.
Business travelers have changed too
One of the biggest shifts in the post-pandemic business travel landscape is among the travelers themselves:
- Companies have more “periodic” travelers – staff who worked in the office before the pandemic, but are now remote. These travelers may need extra support booking travel, understanding policies, managing expenses, and troubleshooting travel challenges.
- Some post-pandemic business travelers are eager to get back on the road and change up their work-from-home rut. Others are anxious, or have pre-existing conditions that make their Covid risk budget miniscule. Continue fostering a culture of compassion and flexibility.