Ready for the return to business travel? Not so fast.

Ready for the return to business travel? Not so fast.

By Geraldine Craven

By Geraldine Craven

25 March 2021

With government-imposed lockdowns still in place in most regions around the world, business travel continues to be significantly reduced in the first quarter of 2021. Although more and more employees are ‘zoom-fatigued’ and eagerly packing their suitcases, the reality is that most companies are in no rush to pick up business travel.

Over a year into the pandemic, the widespread shift to remote working has been broadly embraced by many organisations, putting into question whether business travel will ever recover pre-covid levels. Many companies are embracing this as an opportunity to rethink what they regard as ‘essential’ travel, leveraging the spike in virtual ways of working as a cost cutting opportunity. On average, future travel budgets are expected to reduce between 15-30% compared to pre-covid budgets, though consideration may need to be given to long-term compensation for remote workers.

More people will be working from home more regularly, meaning fewer bricks-and-mortar communal offices. With so many dispersed people, staff will probably want to be compensated in some way if they are having to travel as an exception to communal places for meetings rather than meet regularly in offices
Procurement analyst, financial services

With much uncertainty still predicted in the months to come, travel category managers will continue their agile and cross-functional efforts to support their organisations’ evolving needs. Keeping travelling employees safe has become the number one priority – keeping policies up to date, ensuring they have access to up-to-date information, and ensuring partners are abiding by health and safety requirements.

We are reviewing each trip, ensuring that they have the information they need and know where they need to go for testing. We are now preparing for more trip requests coming in over time, and working with our duty of care provider to provide assistance and information as this gets more complex. We are now seeing different testing requirements that even come down to citizenship.”
Global travel director, manufacturing – consumer goods

Another silver lining from the pandemic with regards to business travel has been an improved user experience as a result of travel management company (TMC) consolidation, digitalisation and process simplification. Many companies learned the hard way the importance of transparency, and going forward greater alignment between TMCs and duty of care providers will offer greater peace of mind.

A lot of suppliers are evolving their offer beyond online booking tools, offering 24-hour service, apps and analytical tools. For some companies it is free, based on Power BI.”
Category lead, consumer goods

Despite the opportunities presented by the rapid digitalisation, there is still much to be worked out and much to be gained from the innovation stimulated by the disruption in this travel industry.

Learn more about how companies are planning for the return to travel (members only).

Procurement Leaders regularly hosts roundtables for senior indirect category leads to share insights about key trends impacting the major categories. Recently, we hosted two roundtable sessions to discuss trends and how category managers are managing their category strategies for travel spend. Get in touch with us to discuss how you can join our membership.

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