Did we see the last of business travel back in March? While many countries are reopening to tourists, there is no resurgence of an enthusiasm to see the world once more. People are wary about what it means to travel to another country with the threat of the coronavirus hanging over their heads. But it’s not just the leisure part of tourism that’s in jeopardy. Even business travels have come to a screeching halt because of the outbreak. So, have we seen the last of it? Will work travel ever get back on its feet?
The outbreak, of course, didn’t just hit the business travel industry. It also impacted the other businesses that depend on tourists and businessmen. The private car service industry, for example, needs to reinvent itself if there will be no tourists and business travelers needing their services in the next year or so. Hotels, conference halls, and bed-and-breakfasts also have to find their footing in this strange new world.
The Need for Business Travel Is Gone
Reports said that corporate travel rates went down since March when the World Health Organization (WHO) categorized the novel coronavirus as a pandemic. Compared to the same week last year, the overall occupancy of hotels in the United States was down by 70%. Companies said that they won’t send their employees to different parts of the globe now because of the threat of the outbreak. They have to prioritize the health of their employees before anything else.
Not only are businesses worried about the health of their employees, but they are also cutting costs. Companies cannot survive these troubling times if they pay for high airline fares, hotel accommodations, food, health insurance, and many more. They have to cut back on their operational and logistical expenses, or they will risk closing down their shops.
Social Distancing Will Remain
Bill Gates, the one man who spent millions of dollars studying the effect of pandemics on societies, the health industry, and governments, is apprehensive that business travel will go on as before. For him, people will rather risk their health on meaningful relationships such as building friendships and bonding with their families. They are not going to risk their lives traveling abroad for business.
Since it looks like social distancing is going to remain, there are no conferences and trade shows to attend. Health experts are prohibiting big gatherings, so there is also no need for business travel. Sure, there will still be some business trips, but people will only take the necessary ones. Why would they risk their lives for work when they can teleconference with their business partners from the comfort of their homes?
Technology Changed Things
The use of teleconferencing for businesses will be the new norm. Although there is nothing that beats face-to-face interactions, people should begin using technology to grow their business even amid the pandemic. With more firms transitioning to work-from-home setups, people realized how beneficial it is to work remotely.
Working from home is cheaper. Employees love the flexibility of their new working hours. They can attend to the needs of their families during lunch breaks. They can clock out early once they finished their jobs. There is no need to waste time stuck in traffic. Employees can do more when they work from home. The businesses that transitioned to this set up are thriving today.
This goes to show that business travel will not be as vital as it was before. Technology and the prevailing threats of the coronavirus will make it almost impossible for the travel industry to get back its bearings. Sure, governments are trying to make everything seem normal again, but businesses know better. Unless the coronavirus suddenly disappears tomorrow, there is no telling when people can move around freely again.
The Future Remains Murky
That’s not to say that business travel is obsolete. There is still a need for it. But the circumstances that the world finds itself in transformed these needs. Sure, businessmen want to meet face-to-face. Personal meetings are essential if they are dealing with vast amounts of money. But with technology present, is face-to-face interaction still necessary? Without a vaccine, there will be no big gatherings in the future. And with the prohibition on big gatherings, that means business travel will also not make a comeback anytime soon.
So no, business travel isn’t exactly dead, but it’s not roaring and ready to go back to normal either. While businessmen still need to make these travels once in a while, they won’t be the norm anymore. Businesses will prioritize teleconferencing and virtual meetings over actual face-to-face negotiations.