A year with COVID: Business Travel Still Falters

Even with the advancements of getting a vaccine, it hasn’t been enough for Business to return to travel. It is evolving and it is changing.

As mentioned in the State of Travel, commercial travel for business still has a long way to go, although I may get the forecast in the long term wrong.

Worldwide spending won’t recover to pre-COVID levels at least until 2025.

The question isn’t when Business Travel will return to spending on travels. However, the question is, would Business Travel want to spend incredible amounts of money on something that isn’t efficient?

Bill Gates Speaks to the future of Business Travel and the consequence of online tools like Zoom and what could these systems improve upon. CNBC/NYT Deal Book Online Summit

Welcome to the age of Video Conferencing

Video Conferencing has come to play since computing power and camera were able to bring high-quality imaging. Consequentially, this couldn’t have happened with better timing of Internet speeds.

Now with the 21st upon us and the world thrusting us into the evolution of communication, why would corporate chiefs want to return spending obscene quantities of money on an activity that isn’t designed for efficiency?

Zoom Valuation is greater than the worth of all airlines combined

covid business travel versus zoom
This Visualization shows how Zoom capture the entire airline industry valuation in less than 1 quarter. Credit: Visual Capitalist

2020 is on the history books as the year where the world did stop. The influx of people went to a standstill as businesses went ahead to reimagine themselves. This meant hiding in our homes which brought tools to keep in touch with colleagues and loved ones.

The last decade, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), experienced increased travel at an average of 5.1% year over year. However, returning to the same level of spending can’t be justified; at least not when the chiefs understand there are better and efficient ways to conduct business.

The Zoom boom was one of the consequences of COVID at the stock market. However, it draws up a picture where Business Travel might return in a smaller fashion.

“The outcomes of meetings held on Zoom vs those held in person are not that much different, but the costs are night-and-day different. it will be hard to justify the costs that were once supported.”

Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers.

Right now, Zoom has a market valuation of $100.83 Billion. That is two times more than in the graphic last year. Even with the top 10 airlines in the world combined, they can’t get close to Zoom’s market valuation. The United States Census Bureau displayed in a survey that a quarter of companies (27%) would return to travel within 6 months.

A far cry from returning to pre normalcy levels.

Business Re-Envisioned and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Fortunately, while Business Travel isn’t dead it will become re-prioritized. “There will be business travel but not on the way we think”, said Evan Konwiser, Executive Vice President of Product and Strategy for American Express Global Business Travel.

He re-envisions business travel for meetings as being opportunities for remote employees. The employees can bond in person only once every few months, making these types of employees feel like business travel being benefits rather than obligations.

With remote working in the upswing, the reckoning of Commercial Real Estate may come soon. Forbes in collaboration with Deloitte did a survey and 3 out of 4 CEOs plan to downsize their office space, meaning the expectation of Business Travel outpacing Consumer Travel may become a thing of the past.

However, if played right; Commercial Real Estate could revitalize, and business travel could be reimagined.

Are passports becoming obsolete?

Making passports obsolete becomes a question of logistics. If COVID taught us something it was that remote working can be accomplished anywhere, as long one has an internet connection. Advanced technology using booklets instead of fingerprints and iris scanners seem a better proposition than using tickets and stamps.

Even Disney has jumped on the train of facial recognition letting guests enter the park without touching surfaces. Disney implemented a 30-day testing pilot program before deciding whether to go forward.

For Evan Konwiser, the trick lies in security and data privacy, depending on the acceptance of these technologies and the privacy concerns from the general populace apart from how long COVID lingers around. The longer it is the faster the project becomes. However, this is more towards a decade’s longs project than a sprint of a few years.

COVID thrust the world towards forced innovation

Author’s Opinion

We are at the dawn of a completely new age. Global commerce and the marketplace will never be the same.

While 2020 marked the time where the world stopped indeed, the decade will mark the divergence in how we work, travel, and even relax. Every little piece of information in the orbit of travel is in fact changing.

The result will severely diverge from what was in plans by companies worldwide 18 months ago. What is coming through the next decade will impact the way we conduct business, how we interact, and how we see the world.

The macrocosm of life, airlines, and supporting industries will receive a shakeup by competitors and external factors outside their control which will affect them greatly.

Airlines and Hospitality industries need to be at the forefront if they expect to fly through the storm of innovation that is here already.

Do you have any comments or questions on COVID’s impact on business travel? You can contact Alex Martinez Rivera below.

Captain Jetson news reporter and aviation analyst aviation analyst Alex Martinez Rivera
Alex Martinez Rivera

Alex Martinez Rivera is the Senior Aviation Contributor for Captain Jetson. Ask questions or connect with him about aviation, aerospace, business, or government via email, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Featured Image: Unsplash.

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