Traveling for business was a common thing, especially in high-earnings business areas, was a regular part of doing business. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic slowed travel to a crawl, many are wondering “will business travel ever be the same?”. Travel is slowly returning as vaccines and other precautions begin to show results. Lets take a look at the state of business travel and how your business can cope with any potential problems.
The Importance of Travel for Business
Travel was an important part of business for many reasons. It allowed for a broader perspective on the company’s products and services, it allowed for the free flow of ideas, and it allowed for greater creativity. It was a real help in expanding into new markets and gaining new customers.
The interplay of getting to know clients, customers, suppliers and employees in person is as valuable as the product delivered. It was also just plain fun. Traveling for business became a way of showing appreciation for employees, distributors, and suppliers. It was a chance to reward employees and build camaraderie.
While many of these benefits will still be present when travel is again safe, there may be less of a need for travel. Developments in technology, as well as changes in how businesses operate, make in person meetings and traveling less important. In fact, most businesses could likely function without requiring staff members to travel.
There are exceptions to this new status quo, though. For example, salesmen often do better in person, so traveling to a client to close a multi-million-dollar deal may be worth the effort. Likewise, sourcing products from manufacturers may also need to be done in person, although methods around this are developing as well.
On the whole, travel for business will be reduced for at least a few years. It may never return to its prominence or frequency again.
New Technologies are Disrupting Business Travel
While travel was an important part of business, many of the benefits of travel may be replaced by new technologies. Cloud computing, video conferencing, and virtual reality allow for a broadening of perspectives without having to travel.
For example, virtual reality allows companies to create a virtual walk-through of a new building, new product, or new service. It’s like being there without the need to travel.
Similarly, virtual reality allows people to visit a new location without ever actually leaving their computer. Virtual reality is also a great way to train new employees, or to hold virtual meetings. It’s a new technology that will be used by many companies in the future.
Video conferencing has reached a new level of popularity as companies like Zoom fill the gap left by in person meetings. Combined with the improvements in internet speeds and communication quality, the need for in person meetings is dwindling. On top of that, companies are able to save a lot of money and time through video conferencing. Most companies are expected to use similar services as the standard practice going forward, reducing the need for travel significantly.
Diversification Strategies for Company Growth
For some companies, a reduction in travel will provide a chance to diversify their offerings. Tech companies, for example, will likely see an increase in software sales, and an opportunity to create more virtual reality software.
In health care, there may be more opportunities to sell medical devices to assist in treatment. This is especially true of devices that can be monitored remotely giving patients and physicians the ability to connect on a deeper level without having to meet in person.
In retail, there will be more opportunities to sell online. The push toward ecommerce-focused businesses was well underway before the pandemic, but it hit its stride as soon as business owners realized that they need an alternative to brick and mortar stores. The boom in ecommerce is not expected to recede at all in the coming years. With sales and business operations going online, there is less of a need to meet in person to sell things.
In other industries, such as finance and banking, there may be more opportunities to sell more products in the form of loans, financial services, and investment products. While travel may be reduced, other forms of business will increase.
Rely Less On In Person Meetings
Business meetings were an important part of doing business, particularly in information industries such as software, and data services. But as the need for travel lessens, so too does the need for in-person meetings. New technologies are making virtual meetings more available and more efficient than traveling to meet in person.
There are, of course, some meetings that will require an in-person meeting. For example, starting a major project with a new client may require some face-to-face time. It is difficult to imagine companies sinking millions of dollars into a project with someone that they have never met in person. Still, this may also become a thing of the past as the online meeting experience improves.
A big part of the problem is the perception that it is harder to communicate effectively online. Even that idea is slowly being undone. Information sharing is streamlining in a way that lets companies share data and resources more effectively. For example, using 3D scans of buildings and products lets teams work together within the same document.
Being able to share high-quality visuals and detailed information in a format that lets the whole team work together is more productive than being in the same room, at a much smaller cost. Companies are moving in this direction, and will likely continue to do so if the technology is available.
Save Travel For the Most Important Meetings
Travel is still limited in many ways. Travel restrictions due to diseases, reduced availability of flights, and increases in price make it less likely that your company can continue to send people to different places. Companies will adjust and reallocate their travel budgets to other areas of operations.
If travel is limited, it would make sense that companies would want to save travel for the most important meetings. You will have to prioritize your travel times to when it will have the biggest impact. This usually means the start of a project, facility inspections, on-site reviews, and other operations that cannot be performed remotely. You may also have to reduce the costs of travel as much as possible in order to squeeze in all of the trips that you need.
Consolidation in the Travel Industry
Travel agencies are likely to see less business in the future. With less need for travel, there will be fewer clients. With less need for travel, fewer people will have a need for a travel agency to book their travel.
This means that companies in the travel industry will likely see a consolidation in the industry as they seek to reduce costs. Companies in the travel industry may be able to weather the storm, but there will likely be fewer travel agencies and travel agents in the future.
This is already happening in the airline industry. Flights are being canceled continuously, and routes are being suspended. Many airline companies are suffering and are not expected to stay open unless air travel picks up substantially in the near future. Rather than just going away, these companies will be bought by other airlines since it is much cheaper to purchase an airline for the resources than to buy them new from the manufacturers.
Business Travel Will Increase, But Will Not Be the Same
Business travel was a common thing before the pandemic, but with the drop in air travel and train travel caused many businesses to scale back or stop travel completely. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding, the need for business travel can return.
Many people prefer to do business in person for a variety of reasons. This alone may be enough to bring about a resurgence in business travel. However, companies have had years to adjust to limited or reduced travel. The costs of traveling, alongside the ease of using technology instead, means that companies are not as likely to return to the way things were.
Business travel will start to come back as options become available. However, it will never be the same. Established companies may continue to rely on travel, but new companies will not. This is especially true in startups and small companies where they do not have the resources to support business travel on a regular basis.
Outsourcing Can Help Your Business Grow, Too
The need for travel remains, but the way business is done may change. New technologies will have an impact on business travel, with virtual reality becoming more common. Business travel, however, will likely be a part of business for the foreseeable future. Consider outsourcing processes, like answering services, so that you can spend more time traveling.
If you’re ready to get started with a professional answering service, we’re here to help. Contact Answer Aide by calling (866) 427-3500 or by filling out our online form. We’re happy to partner with you to support your business while it grows.