For corporate travel leaders in search of a crystal ball, there are two burning questions: when will business travel truly recover and what will the new world of business travel look like in terms of the role they play, in what will certainly be a very different landscape?
The return of business travel will likely trail office openings, with both delayed due to the emergence of the Delta variant. While survey data shows that at least 74% of American business travelers plan to return to the skies, Cirium projections show that it may be two to three years before we reach 2019 levels.
Though the recent disruption basically halted business travel, there is an opportunity for corporate travel providers and corporate travel departments to become more strategic to their customers and create confidence, for a more rapid return to the skies.
Corporate travel strategy – Three ways to add strategic value
- Safety first
As we continue to navigate through the pandemic and post-pandemic concerns, corporate travel can increase their value by providing accurate health and safety guidance. Staying abreast of airline and hotel policies and procedures can help guide business travelers to making safe decisions. By tracking visitor regulations, testing policies and assisting travelers with navigating local healthcare requirements, corporate travel providers are making travel more efficient and lowering risk.
Sharing good counsel on travel safety will help build traveler confidence.
- A 360-degree view on disruptions
Disruptions happen and come in many different forms: everything from labor strikes, bad weather and natural disasters to a minor mechanical delay on a flight or by a cancelation.
A trip is more than just a single flight. When a flight is delayed, the impact to each traveler is going to be different. Corporate travel companies need to consider how they communicate with each traveler, in all scenarios.
According to Nathan Greer, Cirium sales engineer, understanding what each disruption means to each traveler and effectively communicating – at speed – both with the travelers and with the teams who are supporting them in different manners, is paramount.
“A flight delay is a fact, but it has different relevance to your travelers based on where they are in their journey. It’s all about context. For example, for a traveler who’s departing, we’re going to send them a message and notify their agent in the event that there is something else that’s going to be impacted down the line. This gives the agent the ability to be proactive and focus on traveler wellbeing – and crucially provides reassurance to the traveler,” Greer said.
Cirium Trip Alerts empower agents with all of the info they need to plot the best new path for the traveler – with a level of speed and efficiency that airlines themselves cannot deliver.
- Creating greater transparency
Cirium’s smart analytics allow travel management which is both proactive and shares the full picture with customer stakeholders. If their travelers have been impacted, they can show them how they’ve been proactive, how issues were resolved, documenting time and costs added or saved—for a comprehensive snapshot. Trip Analytics makes it easier for travel providers and managers to make strategic recommendations, identify opportunities for cost savings and analyze the health and safety risk, in aggregate.
When it comes to adding value, saving money is clearly the ultimate selling point. But it’s not just about helping reduce costs, it’s about being able to show how problems were met with solutions, in a quantifiable picture. Cirium’s traveler analytics help corporate travel leaders analyze and report on that value.
Business travel recovery – the outlook
The latest data for leisure travel shows encouraging green shoots. However, the undeniable reality is that the resumption of business travel, currently slow to take off, is pivotal for a successful airline industry recovery as a whole, as well as for the future of the corporate travel sector.
Jeremy Bowen, CEO, Cirium said: “Airlines – and predominantly the full-service carriers – make their money on the business traveler. These travelers tend to book at the last minute, perhaps change their flights a few times, are less price-sensitive, and will usually fly in a more premium cabin.
However, with business travel, the decision to fly isn’t always in the hands of the actual traveler. The world of work has changed, possibly forever, and companies are now more reluctant to budget for large meetings with colleagues flying in from offices all over the world, with Zoom providing a working alternative. But, while it will be a slow recovery, I do think significant business travel will eventually return.”
“I expect business travel to recover in three phases. Client and partner meetings will come back first, followed by internal meetings where people have to go and see overseas teams and subsidiaries. The last phase will be the return of those internal meetings where 20 or 30 colleagues fly to a neutral destination and meet for a day.”Jeremy Bowen, CEO, Cirium
According to our latest survey (The Cirium Traveler Intelligence Report 2021), in which 2,140 US adults were polled earlier this summer, 74% of respondents said that they would travel the same or even more after the pandemic. Of those respondents that traveled for business prior to the pandemic, 24% expect to travel more, mostly due to the rise in remote working models.
New trends in working models
We expect to see a shift in business travel demand as a direct impact of the move to remote working as a longer-term option for many employees.
According to Annette Schweiss, Cirium business development director: “People who used to be office workers and are now working remotely, are no longer with their colleagues on a day-to-day basis, so that may increase the amount of travel that needs to be done for the remote working models. Remote workers are a bit more dynamic, team dynamics are changing, and so we may be seeing a shift in travel patterns.”
Ditiana Gibbons, from JTB Business Travel, predicts a surge in people having to visit central offices because many companies are re-evaluating funds that were previously tied to the cost of regional offices, and could potentially re-allocate those funds to flying employees in and out, throughout the year.
Watch the webinar
JTB Business Travel invited Nathan Greer and Annette Schweiss to discuss the return of business travel and demonstrate Cirium’s corporate travel tools. They also discussed the opportunity for corporate travel leaders to be a strategic asset to their clients.
Explore Cirium’s corporate travel tools and see how Cirium can help travel management companies and travel departments elevate operations and stay ahead of the curve.