Corporate travel has arguably been the travel sector most impacted by COVID-19, with many companies swapping work trips and face-to-face meetings with business partners for digital conference calls at the height of the pandemic.
But with global vaccination programmes helping to quell the virus, there are increasing signs that business travellers are hitting the road and taking to the skies once again. A recent survey from the Global Business Travel Association found 40% of companies plan to resume domestic business travel within the next three months.
Here, we take a glimpse at some of the key trends we believe will accelerate the recovery of the corporate travel sector.
‘Bleisure’ doing business
One trend that looks certain to grow in the coming months is the ‘bleisure’ phenomenon – the blending of business and leisure travel. Bleisure travel existed before COVID, but a combination of pent-up travel demand and changing attitudes to flexible working resulting from the pandemic is seeing more workers taking their office to the beach or hotel pool. A Harris Poll survey from earlier this year found 74% of Americans were considering working while on vacation. With many businesses also committing to maintaining remote work policies post-pandemic, we expect to see a notable increase in the number of bleisure trips in the near future.
The rise of the digital nomad
The global pandemic has also accelerated the rise of the ‘digital nomad’ – business professionals who have no fixed place of work. A 2020 study by workforce software firm MBO Partners found 10.9 million Americans considered themselves to be digital nomads, up 49% from the previous year. In today’s digitally-connected world, growing numbers of people are now choosing to travel to remote locations to work. This looks set to be a long-term trend, with Airbnb reporting a 10% increase in people taking longer stays (28 days or more) at its rental properties from 2019 to this year.
Hotels – the new office?
With more workers breaking away from the traditional boardroom and conducting business remotely, the hospitality sector has been adapting to make their offer more appealing to the new business traveller. Hotel group Hyatt, for example, launched its Great Locate scheme earlier this year, offering reduced rates and complementary board room usage for guests staying for a minimum of 29 days. With other hospitality groups offering similar schemes, we expect more businesses to allow their colleagues to carry out their work in more salubrious surroundings while travelling for business.