How the pandemic impacted travel in general

It’s no secret that the pandemic was extremely devastating for the travel and leisure industries. However, it was not just vacation travel that was seriously impacted by the first global pandemic in over a century as the average corporate traveler and business traveler also had major transportation issues, if they even dared to do an in-person business meeting at all. With the downward trend in the corporate traveler and the travel industry as a whole, the average corporate travel agent and corporate booking tool took second, or even third, place to a new boom in online meetings.

Overall there was an extremely steep decline in individuals traveling in any capacity whether by road, rail, or flight and in many cases, international travel was flat out banned to or from certain countries without lengthy waiting and quarantine periods. All of this difficulty led to a new way of doing business and that was the inevitable switch to the online meeting.

The switch to online meetings

Online meetings offered a huge boon to industries that still required a lot of interaction through meetings but spared the extreme difficulty of traveling when that was simply no longer an option. There are some individuals who are predicted that these online meetings are now the default and a feature here to stay. The online meeting format does have a couple of advantages that are readily apparent. Individuals can conduct these meetings from their homes or resident cities. It reduces the need for traveling and is cheaper as no accommodations or airfare need to be paid for, and because of this, some businesses are wondering if they should even think about going back to the corporate travel world at all or if we should just keep using the method the pandemic required upon us. However, while some individuals may feel this way, the truth is businesses have taken a major hit from failing to meet in person.

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The missing of in-person connection

While certainly business meetings can be conducted from Zoom, there are several major drawbacks to the online meeting which has led many businesses to realize how important those in-person connections really were. One key was simply less productivity. Individuals who are able to work or take their meetings from home simply were not paying as much attention. As any person who has been in an online meeting knows, the attention required is significantly lower when you can simply turn off your camera or be reading your mail while the speaker at your meeting is talking.

These types of distracted behaviors led to a significant reduction in the beneficial aspects of company and corporate meetings. Individuals simply had the license and the freedom to tune out whenever they got bored in a way that simply is not possible when the meeting is being conducted in person. In-person meetings thus have superior quality when it comes to maintaining attention. Through that attention building comes relationships which leads to the other issue, online meetings do not build successful business or corporate relationships as well.

Simply put, it is easier to dismiss someone or not form personal connections when you are using online meetings. Personal connections are found in the personal side banter between two individuals, the shaking of hands, and the sharing of a meal. These types of small personalized human gestures have been recognized as an important part of human communication and human negotiations for many millennia and now technology has given us the ability to circumvent one of our strongest tools when it comes to building strong relationships – in-person meetings. It is little wonder then that while it was a noble experiment, the online meeting has largely failed to adequately replace the in-person meeting, leading to a sudden resurgence in corporate travel and with it the return of the corporate traveler.

The comeback of corporate travel

According to CNBC:

“Business travel spending worldwide will likely jump more than 37% next year to over $1 trillion but the normally lucrative industry won’t fully recover until 2024, according to a new industry forecast released Wednesday…China and the U.S. are expected to lead business travel spending this year with growth of about 30% apiece, according to the report.”

Although full recovery is expected to take another few years, the fact of the matter is that businesses all over the country and the world are realizing that these online meetings are simply not sufficient replacements for in-person corporate work and that the need and use for a corporate travel agency cannot be replaced with a computer. While the pandemic has seriously affected the corporate travel industry, it is coming back with a vengeance and businesses that want to ensure they still have the access and ability to partake of the benefits of a corporate travel agent would do well to begin the process of finding one now.

TTS Corporate is one way to be able to bring corporate travel back. It works with all of the Travelport travel distribution systems, including Worldspan, Galileo, and Apollo. Corporate travel agents are able to make sure that all travel is done in compliance with company travel policies and that it can be booked quickly.

It is very likely that corporate travel agencies will take longer to recover than the demand for corporate travel does. If this ends up being the case as many analysts predict, businesses could find themselves in the unenviable position of either having to utilize one of their own employees at the business’s expense to plan and prepare their own travel arrangements instead of utilizing a travel agent. Or the business may find that it is being out-competed by individuals who had availed themselves of a corporate travel agency back when they were more available. Having a corporate travel agent that you keep working with or is on retainer is insurance against losing to the competition or experiencing unnecessary expenditures.

While the global pandemic may have put a brief halt to the corporate traveler, it has by no means ended the need for business traveling and in fact, it has proved the old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Businesses are waking up to the realization of how important these business trips were for forming strong relationship bonds with suppliers and partners around the world. Without that in-person human communication, businesses could find themselves obsolete and outcompeted by those who understand that while business shouldn’t be personal, it does require a personal touch.

Article by Kathy Jackson, Account Manager @ TTS