HR Policy Association Continues Evolving Workplace Initiative With “Return to Business Travel” Webinar

July 30, 2021

The Evolving Workplace Initiative session took a deep dive into current and future trends in business travel, including the impact of the Delta variant, and how companies are approaching business travel policy and budgets.

Rich Floersch, HR Policy’s Senior Strategic Advisor, moderated a panel including Edith Clee, Partner, Head of HR Strategy, Marsh McLennan; Suzanne Neufang, CEO and Executive Director, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA); and Beth Sullivan, SVP Business Operations Executive, Global Travel, Meeting & Event Management, Corporate Fleet and Aviation, Bank of America.

Drop in travel spending will cost billions:  Mr. Floersch began the panel by noting that according to the US Travel Association, “overall travel spending dropped nearly $500 billion, or 42%, during the pandemic, costing the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion in economic output.”  Business travel was the most hard-hit, and corporate leaders are now talking about the effectiveness of video conferencing while CEOs are happy to see the savings they realized due to less travel (Amazon reported a billion dollars in savings).  In addition, some companies that have pledged to reduce carbon emissions see reduced travel as a way to do that.  Many believe business travel will lag behind personal travel in its return to pre-pandemic levels.

In a July 2021 survey, the Global Business Travel Association found that although non-essential business travel is starting to recover, overall levels are still very low compared to 2019.  Highlights of the survey presented by CEO Suzanne Neufang include:

  • 77% of respondents feel their employees are ‘willing’ or ‘very willing’ to travel for business in the current environment.

  • Over half (57%) of respondents are usually or sometimes allowed to conduct non-essential domestic business travel.  Non-essential international business travel continues to lag, with only one in four (26%) usually or sometimes allowed to conduct non-essential international business travel.

  • Under 20% of respondents indicated their employees will need to be vaccinated before travelling for business (18%) or meet with clients and customers face-to-face (16%), compared to more than half who said their employees will not.

Companies taking a purposeful approach to business travel.  The panel then discussed their own business travel policies as well as the direction of the future. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Business travel will not return to 2019 levels for at least five years.
  • Client-driven meetings (sales, service) are being prioritized over internal meetings.
  • Investment in hybrid meeting technology and tools will be critical.

Please see our comprehensive recap here for more detail.

Thanks very much to all who participated, and stay tuned for future webinars and offerings as part of our Evolving Workplace Initiative.