Business travel after Covid-19 will not look the same as it did before. Quite the opposite, in fact, as sustainability and cost-savings have many companies plan to decrease their business travelling – in favor of meeting virtually when this is deemed possible.
While it may feel like business travel is bound to bounce back (as most of us have been stuck at home for long periods of time and may be itching for travel), business travel after Covid-19 will probably not come back to its pre-pandemic levels. This due to the benefits that many organizations have experienced during this time when travelling has been out of the question.
This has become increasingly clear throughout the pandemic, and a recent Wall Street Journal article indicated that “between 19% and 36% of all business trips could disappear, given efficiencies developed during the lockdown”. This, at the same time as a Deloitte study has shown that US business travel may only reach 30 % of its 2019 levels by the end of 2021. The latter study, including answers from 150 travel managers as well as interviews with leaders in organizations that spent some 123 MUSD on air travel in 2019, showed that organizations will carefully start to travel for business again – but that we will not see a return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. The reasons primarily being cost savings and sustainability.
Sustainability & Cost Savings
Sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips right now, and for good reason. The UN recently released a rather scary report explaining the need to cut emissions, and the need to care for the environment has never been clearer. With this, it is not too surprising (though absolutely great) that companies are taking this issue seriously – and seeing that working to decrease business travel can be one part of the puzzle.
After all, the International Energy Agency estimates that transportation accounts for “24% of direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion”; a rather high figure that we do well in trying to decrease. And while business travel is, of course, just a small part of the transportation that occurs on a global scale, it is nevertheless a great idea to do what we can.
The good news is that the pandemic has taught us that there are alternatives to, for example, travelling to a customer or gathering the entire team in one place. Virtual meetings have been norm since the pandemic hit, and many have come to realize that the benefits of meeting virtually oftentimes exceed the pros of meeting in person.
This was also touched upon in Deloitte’s report, where they explain that:
“Bottom-line and environmental priorities will be supported by technology and behavior changes brought on by more than a year of virtual-only meetings and events. The embrace of tech platforms for meetings and collaboration will mitigate the need for certain trips, and these platforms will continue to evolve to better meet some of the needs that travel used to fill.”
In other words, tech solutions can beneficially be used in place of certain meetings and the travelling that came with them – and will develop to better cater to the needs and requirements that come with meeting and collaborating over distance. Something that can be beneficial for both sustainability efforts and cost-reductions. The latter which has become exceedingly clear, with Amazon reporting a whopping 1 BUSD savings in travel expenses – for 2020 and due to the pandemic – and even more so if we consider that, for example, a business trip in the US. costs approximately 1293 USD.
With that in mind, it is almost a given that companies are now looking at ways to reduce business trips – for example by optimizing “meeting agendas to reduce need to fly”, restrict how often employees travel for business and move as many internal meetings as possible to the virtual space – though, as we’ve seen, it is not just internal meetings that are held remotely. Where remote sales have skyrocketed, and where the trick is to find the digital tools to help you close deals and tie the sales process together virtually.
Business travel after Covid-19 will not look like it did pre-pandemic. Or, business travel will, without a doubt, come back in some shape and form, but odds are it will never be back to the levels where it once was. Something that, in our view, is a silver lining of this terrible time we’ve lived through, as we shouldn’t travel as much as we did – given the importance of decreasing carbon emissions and caring for this earth we’re all living on. A practice that, as we’ve seen, can also decrease costs significantly. Where we can even do fun thought experiments and consider how much we can save in a year, if we do not go on X number of business trips á 1293 USD on average.
We may not be able to trade every business trip for a virtual meeting right away, but we should try to replace those we can. Which can serve as a good starting point that can bring about measurable results. Both on our own bottom-line and on the world at large.
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