Business travel is the backbone of many travel-related industries, sometimes accounting for as much as 75% of revenue. This has made these industries especially interested in projections for business travel in 2021 as they seek to make up for major losses over the past year.
With so much uncertainty, predictions about the return of business travel vary widely among experts. We can’t say with certainty when business travel will resume or if it will ever reach pre-pandemic levels but we can imagine what business travel might look like in the near future.
Reliance on testing. Airports and airlines have already begun requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test and we can expect that other sectors of the travel industry may do the same. As vaccines become more widely available, airlines, hotels and other businesses may also move to make proof of vaccination mandatory for travelers.
Travel restrictions will continue. Even with robust testing and large-scale rollout of vaccines, states and local governments are likely to keep travel restrictions in place for the foreseeable future. Companies will need to account for quarantine periods and other mobility restrictions as they make travel plans.
Return to managed travel. HR departments have gotten comfortable relying on employees to make hotel and airline reservations through online booking tools but this could change as business travel resumes. Many of these companies may go back to human professionals to help them navigate the complexities of travel at this time.
Focus on domestic travel. While travel has been down across the board, the international travel market has been hit hardest by restrictions and even outright bans. Expect companies to focus their efforts closer to home in order to avoid the potential disruptions that these restrictions present.
Limited events and group travel. Conferences, tradeshows and other large gatherings are less likely in 2021 than executive meetings and sales presentations. Travel-related businesses who specialize in these markets are taking the opportunity to develop new safety protocols, redesign event space and plan their marketing initiatives going forward.
Expect a slow recovery. Whatever you think the future of business travel will be, this is sure to be a gradual change that takes place over years, not months. Companies should temper expectations and plan for the long-term as they anticipate the return of business travel.