Skift Take

A new report from Deloitte singles out the power of networking as the main reason for a resurgence in travel, but the truth is the pendulum is swinging wildly because companies are rediscovering the merits of travel for a range of purposes — or at least they are until expenses get reined back in.

In-person events and conferences are set to drive corporate travel’s recovery throughout 2023, as employees look for more human connections.

That’s according to Deloitte, which has predicted industry gatherings will play a starring role in corporate travel’s “new normal” after last year’s remote workers took center stage.

Deloitte’s 2023 Travel Outlook, published Tuesday, suggests part of that is due to “inadequate conferencing software,” as businesses also revive travel programs due to Zoom fatigue.

Primary Reason

The report in particular notes that client acquisition and relationship building are not easily executed virtually, which is something Tata Consulting Services has picked up on as it ups spending on travel.

This year, events will have a larger role to play. In 2022, Deloitte’s research showed that just 25 percent of business travelers pointed to conferences, exhibitions and trade shows as their primary reason for travel.

2023 Deloitte Travel Outlook

Delta Air Lines noted that 96 percent of its corporate clients plan to spend more on travel this quarter than during the last, it revealed last week.

“Conferencing software has proven an inadequate substitute for the networking that goes on at industry events,” the report said. “Well-executed, marquee events should have a strong year and play a big role in corporate travel going forward. With less time spent in-office, the conference’s role in connecting people and creating face-to-face opportunities will likely become more critical.”

Training and client projects have been “somewhat replaced” by technology, Deloitte adds.

The Permanence of Laptop Lugging

So what of these “laptop luggers” who were picked out by Deloitte as a major theme at the start of 2022?

That trend will also continue into 2023, it seems. “About half of employed Americans can do their jobs remotely and the number of days they prefer to do so is on the rise as well, from 3.2 days per week in November 2021 to 3.9 days in November 2022,” states the report.

Deloitte also expects business travel spend to reach two-thirds of 2019 levels by the end of 2023, after more than doubling over the course of 2022.

But this year won’t be without challenges, with an overall “murky” outlook for leisure travel in 2023, due to consumer financial concerns and a desire to avoid peak travel dates.

Staffing shortages, technology issues and ongoing supply chain challenges will also prove problematic.

Deloitte has cited “expense-related curbing of trips” too as a barrier to recovery, because of those higher airfares. With Goldman Sachs reviewing its travel policy, according to reports, and Google already moving to business-critical only, a chain reaction of similar decisions made by other international organizations could pose the biggest threat yet.

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Tags: business travel, corporate travel, deloitte, delta air lines, goldman sachs, google, remote work, Zoom

Photo credit: Conferencing software has proven an inadequate substitute for the networking that goes on at industry events, argues Deloitte. SNCR GROUP / Pixabay

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