What will business travel look like when employees can travel again in Europe? Collinson recently set out to better understand how the industry landscape could change post-pandemic in its new downloadable report, European Business Travel: Getting it Back in the Future.
The results included in the report, which originate from a global research study conducted by Collinson, illuminate the large impact Covid-19 travel restrictions have had on businesses. Two-thirds (68 percent) of business travelers from across the region said their work has been affected by the lack of cross-border business travel, while one-fifth reported that being unable to see clients and prospects face-to-face has negatively impacted the way they do business.
These findings, as well as others from the report, make a strong argument for a return of business travel. Collinson spoke with What’s Next futurist Richard Watson — who accurately predicted back in 2018 that the travel industry would shut down, possibly due to a pandemic, but would then bounce back — about why he’s optimistic about a business travel rebound and expects it to snap back even faster than the industry predicts.
Here, we look at how business travel could change to make a strong recovery.
TRAVELERS WILL SPEND MORE FOR GUARANTEED EFFICIENCY
Travelers may well be willing to pay a premium for a more seamless travel experience. Collinson’s research found that this especially applies to British travelers, though European travelers, in general, reported that efficiency will be a priority.
Business travelers want to see things like efficient airport security lines, on-time flights, and smooth check-in processes, and according to Watson, airlines should take note. “This seems a relatively simple way to give business travelers a good experience, as well as a peace of mind that they can get to their meeting stress-free, and is a chance to generate some additional revenue, too.” He suggested that travel providers, corporate travel managers, and even loyalty companies should start offering these extras now to encourage European travelers back into the skies.
TRAVEL RISK MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS WILL BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER
Making sure business travelers feel comfortable and confident about flying will be essential, and Watson discussed what travel companies need to offer to provide this reassurance. “Given the different levels of health provision in different countries around the world, traveling employees will want to know that there is dedicated care on hand should anything go wrong — if they experience any issues, or if they test positive while away and need assistance with accommodation or rebooking flights,” Watson said.
That will help provide the confidence that business travelers need to resume traveling across borders. “[It] will go a long way to reflecting the concerns flagged by travelers, both now and from before the pandemic.”
BUSINESS AND LEISURE TRAVEL WILL CONTINUE TO BLUR
In the report, Watson discussed the intersection of business and leisure travel once people start traveling again for work. It’s likely that few companies will return to five days a week in an office, and that will have various implications on how people travel. Watson explained that there are several ways this may manifest itself and suggested it will have a large impact on the business travel demographic. “[It] could be a real growth area,” he said.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL IN EUROPE?
How else will businesses and the travel industry in general need to reshape to encourage business travelers back into the skies — and what will travelers themselves expect and demand?
Working with Watson, Collinson has also created a ‘future travel essentials’ infographic that helps business travelers prepare for their next trip by laying out exactly what they will need.
See the report for more details.