While business travel was down by 90% at the height of the pandemic, some companies saw business travel activity return to about 80% of pre-pandemic levels when restrictions eased over the summer (McKinsey)
At its peak, the firm counted more than 300 million daily participants in virtual meetings, while paying customers have more than tripled. Zoom said it expects sales as high as $1.8bn (£1.4bn) this year – roughly double what it forecast in March.
On a leisurely Sunday, while sipping my Lemongrass tea and thinking how the post-pandemic world would look like? Will things be as normal as pre-Covid times? Well, maybe…
Kids will start going to school, we will go on family holidays, will together with family, friends, But, how about the work place? Especially business travel? Will that also be the same? I doubt.
Pandemic has taught us that we can collaborate while working from home and it will remain a popular choice for many workers and their companies in the post-Covid world. If you don’t need to go to the office to work, why do you need to travel?
We have seen during the last year or so technology has played a major role and with tools like Zoom, Mural, MS Teams, Slack at our disposal, we can conduct virtual meetings anytime from anywhere. These tools have proven to be mostly adequate (if not great!) substitutes for meeting in person. If you can meet virtually, why do you need to travel?
Imagine the response (post-Covid) to the default question while requesting approval to a business trip – “Why can’t you do these meetings virtually?” Many (or the most) business trips will not clear this final hurdle. Not after we’ve had a year or two of doing business extensively via Teams and Zoom and seeing that this model works well enough for different types of meetings.
The inevitable conclusion is that most corporate travel budgets will shrink for sure. I can see going forward, low-value trips get denied and far fewer infrequent travellers need to travel. Approvers will ask for a better justification and travel requests will be judged by the risk-versus-reward, in-person-versus-virtual lens.
We are entering a new paradigm, one grounded by questioning the need for travel. It’s now much less about getting people to meetings and much more about the value of the meeting itself.
We have to embrace this pivot.