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What Will Business Travel Look Like in The New Normal?

Author: Zayd Maniar BA (Honours), FCA (England & Wales), International Liaison Partner, Crowe UAE

Published: 20 Aug 2021

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This article will take approximately two minutes to read.

If there is a topic where the opinion was split right down the middle, it’s business travel. Purists claim face to face meetings are still the only way to build and strengthen, trust and confidence. Aficionados of Digital Transformation now want all meetings online. They are trying to free people of long-winded business meetings, hours of sitting in a darkened room or nibbling on stale buffets. The resulting downtime for work means uptime for leisure.

Even before the pandemic, people across organisations were questioning meetings. Not just because they could have been an email. Limited meeting room spaces were quickly chased by budget cuts on travel and entertainment from previous recessions, when organisations were faced to cut costs and pave the way for efficiency.

This time however, its not just the accountants and their budgets driving changes to meetings. It’s the health situation. 20-odd months into the pandemic and several variants later, well-being is of great concern as civic duty reminds us to support the already burdened Health Services by doing our part and staying safe.

Just as recoveries increase and new cases are falling, we are reminded about our carbon footprint. Most if not all global organisations have made significant savings in the previous years in carbon emissions. They hope to keep up that trend and do their bit for leaving behind a cleaner and greener environment for generations to come.

Does that mean, business travel is a thing of a past? I do not believe so. There will always be a market for business travel. However, like everything in the pandemic, it will need to evolve. There will be a demand for business travel, but people will demand a leisure element with that. Instead of just flying to a country, having back-to-back meetings, and flying back, an element of leisure will entice the traveller. For example, events can no longer be about staring at a presentation screen. That can be done online. However, taking a walk around the city, exploring the countryside or playing a round of golf, will mean that “investment” is worth it.

Lastly, for airlines, they too will need to follow the likes of Emirates Airline. Whose Business Class is not just aimed at the business traveller. Specialist catering for young children, frothy milkshakes, ultra-wide entertainment screens with privacy dividers and an army of attentive hostesses, cater to luxury family holidays. Imagine being on a trans-Atlantic flight where your child is taken care of so well, you can take a nap, enjoy fine-dining or just catch up on your favourite box-sets. Now that makes Business sense.

*The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.