Technology will certainly help influence how meetings take place in the future and will be a substitute to some degree, but will not be a replacement for business travel. In a recent survey of over 200 travel buyers spread mainly across Asia and the South Pacific, the Corporate Travel Community (CTC) found that external business meetings would be a driver of corporate travel at their organisations during the months ahead. Almost two thirds (63.4%) said it would be the primary driver, placing it a long way ahead of any other travel objective.
The videoconferencing industry has been helping to power business during the pandemic, but we appear to becoming a little tired of using the platforms and perhaps a little in the monotony of constant home working and online meeting after online meeting, occasionally interrupted by webinar after webinar.
Whether via Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or Slack, video conferencing has acted like a first responder during the health crisis and permitting business to keep in touch with staff and customers and maintain some form of ongoing relationship.
New technologies like chatbot-powered messaging apps, mobile booking assistants, and artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced travel tools have entered the mix, empowering more traveller independence and delivering reduced costs for the organisations that deploy them.
Technology is now seen as a key driver of the industry adapting its practices to meet new standard requirements and business protocols. But in conflict with the return of business travel the development of artificial intelligence meeting tools, means there now remains a big question market over future levels of business travel.
Even before Covid-19 had hit companies had started to realise that there were some big opportunities for improving the way meetings and events were planned. Many a report has now been written about how the resurgence of business travel could be influenced by the explosion of video conferencing which has meant a lot of business meetings now routinely take place online.
Some saw their value; others were not sold. But many, having now seen it in action now appreciate its value. But conferences and trade shows still have merit and there are businesses who still believe face-to-face meetings are critical competitive requirements. The video conferencing industry will take a greater prominence, but many argue they have had their place in the business world for many years now and we have not seen a correlated decline in business travel.
Technology certainly has a role to play in the future. Video calls work well when relationships are established and when communication styles are known. They can even help to grow and deepen relationships. Are these improved video technologies better than a phone call? Yes. But are they robust enough to fully enable the world’s work?
Technology will certainly help influence how meetings take place in the future and will be a substitute to some degree, but will not be a replacement for business travel. But what type of meetings will ultimately drive the growth of the corporate travel?
Conferences and exhibition attendance play a key part of the corporate travel sector, but it is general external meetings that are its lifeblood. New research from the Corporate Travel Community (CTC), a network of corporate travel buyers and other personnel who manage their organisation’s travel portfolios, provides a little more insight specifically into the travel buyer mindset.
In a recent survey of over 200 travel buyers spread mainly across Asia and the South Pacific it found that external business meetings would be a driver of corporate travel at their organisations during the months ahead. Almost two thirds (63.4%) said it would be the primary driver, placing it a long way ahead of any other travel objective.
Business travel for conferences and events is a key ingredient in the corporate travel cake and as an industry has taken a hefty blow from the Covid-19 pandemic. Ongoing uncertainty over the delivery of such occurrences could be the reason why the CTC research found it to be the primary travel objective for just one in ten respondents (10.7%), but it is ranked as the second primary objective for travel ahead of internal meetings (9.8%). Reasons for travel remain numerous and around one in seven (16%) list other options as the primary objective for business travel.
[perfectpullquote align="full" bordertop="false" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]"In a recent survey of over 200 travel buyers spread mainly across Asia and the South Pacific it found that external business meetings would be a driver of corporate travel at their organisations during the months ahead. Almost two thirds (63.4%) said it would be the primary driver, placing it a long way ahead of any other travel objective."
Corporate Travel Community (CTC) Survey, in conjunction with ATPI[/perfectpullquote]
The ATPI Group, which delivers corporate travel and events solutions to organisations operating in a variety of specialist sectors around the world, acknowledges that the outlook remains cloudy for the corporate travel sector but that there is clearly light at the end of the tunnel of what has been one of the biggest crisis for the managed travel sector.
Peter Muller, international board director at ATPI tells The Blue Swan Daily that while Covid-19 has presented a far more challenging environment than ever before; nevertheless, we’ve been in tough times previously, and the industry has always bounced back.
"Talk of technology replacing face-to-face meetings is not new," he explains. "I believe that once we are clear on the rules of engagement around travel, the desire to hold external meetings will return."
"The caveat is that corporations and travellers alike will require confidence in the process, duty of care and the ability to move freely. If governments continually add roadblocks and make travel too complicated, there will be a much longer-term impact," he adds.
Specifically referencing the findings from the CTC survey on the travel manager insights into the primary objective for business travel, Mr Muller acknowledges that relationship building is ultimately more successful when you meet in person; you get the full picture and full engagement.
"I think the benefits of that will outweigh the cost benefits experienced in the current landscape, and that is reflected in these survey results. From a conference and events perspective, we will see hybrid models evolve where delegates will be a mix of live attendees and virtual and this will be seen as a good alternative and still deliver savings," he adds.
In the case of ATPI, as a global events business, he says the company is "already delivering in this space utilising sophisticated and flexible technology" and has "a number of kick-off events already in planning for 2021 around this model".
Traveller habits, and broader shifts in the corporate landscape, means that while it may still be grounded the business travel sector is still evolving behind the scenes and perhaps at a faster pace than ever before as travel management companies, corporate travel managers, and travel suppliers adapt to the new realities of life. Business travel will return and external meetings are set to be the main driving force behind the initial stages of the recovery.