Companies have discovered that team members must travel if they want to experience business growth.
The pandemic killed business travel. But, in a stunning turnaround, corporate travel in the United States will get much closer to normal levels by the end of 2022. U.S. business travel is expected to reach 55% to 70% of 2019 levels in Q3 and 65% to 80% in Q4. What’s driving this return to business travel? The answer is several factors, including business growth.
Here’s an in-depth look at the rebound in business travel, the factors that are driving it, plus how your organization can use travel to achieve the business growth it needs.
3 Factors: What’s Driving the Return to Travel?
When it comes to the return to business travel, the primary factors are health and safety conditions, staying competitive and growth.
First, on the health and safety front, The COVID-19 pandemic is making less of an impact on daily life now than it was over the past 2 years. Quarantines and other restrictions for international travel are now reduced, and the rate of infection is significantly lower thanks in large part to access to vaccinations.
According to experts, corporate travel in the United States could reach 80% of its 2019 levels this year. That would be 400% growth compared to summer 2021 and 200% growth compared to 2021’s fourth quarter.
Second, companies have discovered that they must travel to keep up with the competition. In-person events are on the rise, and, if a company chooses not to exhibit at a conference, it can be sure that its primary competitors will jump into the void and take advantage of the opportunity. In fact, many conference organizers have created formats that maximize a company’s return on in-person interactions.
This leads us to the third factor in the return to business travel: the need for business growth. Just as companies realize that they must attend expos and other events where they can connect with prospective clients, they also realize that their businesses will not grow unless travel is part of day-to-day operations.
3 Ways Travel Empowers Business Growth
It’s natural to assume that travel programs support business growth. But how does travel specifically drive more opportunities and more revenue for companies around the world? Here are 3 specific ways that business growth emerges from a thriving travel program.
1. Optimize Team Performance
Yes, travel is surging again, but it’s surging in part for reasons that are different than before COVID-19. During the pandemic, many companies embraced remote work for the first time, and many of those companies will continue with remote work for the foreseeable future.
But, though team members can effectively work remotely, there remains the need for in-person gatherings from time to time. That’s why many companies are now asking employees to travel for internal meetings and all-hands gatherings.
Yes, remote work can help companies save on overhead and give them access to larger pools of talent from which to recruit. But bringing these remote workers together for regular meetings is an effective way to generate new ideas and optimize team performance, which in turn helps achieve corporate growth goals.
2. Connect with Prospects
Perhaps the most obvious reason to travel is to connect with prospective customers and clients. The traditional road warrior is a salesperson who is managing an entire state or region. This road warrior leaves his or her home city each week to go out and pitch the company’s products or services.
This dynamic remains the same in 2022 as before the pandemic. Above, we mention travel as a way to keep up with the competition. To be sure, if a company’s salespeople do not travel to connect with prospective clients, the competition’s salespeople will.
3. Build Relationships with Existing Clients
We all appreciate Zoom calls and virtual meetings. They were essential during the worst months of the pandemic. But there’s no better way to build a relationship with an existing client than through face-to-face meetings.
Relationship-building is one of the most important reasons why companies need thriving travel programs in 2022 and beyond. Businesses and the companies they serve both desire in-person interaction, and travel is what makes it possible. If you want to deepen loyalty among your client base and reduce churn rate, it’s important for your account managers and others who interface with clients to visit them from time to time.
How the Pandemic Helped Businesses
It’s worth stating: Businesses learned a lot of lessons during the pandemic, lessons about how to operate leaner without sacrificing productivity. This is certainly true for business travel. Budgets shrank during the pandemic, but organizations discovered ways to persevere and keep their Travelers on the road to the extent needed. Now, those lessons learned are carrying over as we move closer to normal. That is, businesses are better equipped to get the most out of their travel programs because of what they experienced during the pandemic.
This new emphasis on maximizing travel-related ROI is also good for sustainability. The environmental impact of business travel is top of mind for many companies in 2022, and the lessons learned during the pandemic can help us all travel more sustainably this year and beyond.
Potential Business Growth Challenges Ahead?
Is there anything that can throttle growth in business travel? Yes, as the pandemic demonstrated, there’s always a chance that the unexpected can impact travel programs.
We’re starting to see inflation in the headlines more and more. Inflation and other economic issues could put a damper on business travel’s growth in the back half of the year. At the same time, even though the pandemic situation appears to be improving, there’s always the chance that a new variant of COVID-19 sweeps across the country and around the world making it difficult to travel.
Be sure that your company is maintaining a posture of readiness, including virtual and hybrid options for meetings should travel once again become challenging or impossible.
Plan for an Uncertain Future
Business travel will remain critical to your organization’s business growth for the foreseeable future. At JTB Business Travel, we support organizations of all sizes, assisting them in maximizing their return on investment in business travel.
Throughout the pandemic, we have continually updated our products and services to ensure that we are equipping clients with the tools and recommendations they need to travel successfully. Behind everything we do is a common-sense approach to business travel.Get in touch for a travel program assessment to help your business grow.