4 minute read 6 May 2021
Smiling black entrepreneur walking in airport indoors

How the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the future of business travel

Authors
Umar Riaz

EY Americas Real Estate, Hospitality and Construction Advisory Leader

Bringing transformative strategies and solutions to businesses for more than 20 years. Multilingual and globally oriented. Deep thinker. Passionate about using technology to turn analysis into action.

Brian Tress

Global Future Destinations and Tourism Consulting Services Solutions Leader

Leading strategist and professional in the tourism sector. Thought leader in destination and tourism. Strong advocate of sustainable long-term approaches.

4 minute read 6 May 2021

We have compiled nine concepts to keep in mind as we think about how the 2020 global pandemic will shape the business travel industry in the future, as discussed in the 2021 EY webcast.

Three questions to ask:

  • How has the global pandemic affected the future of business and domestic travel?
  • What are sound strategies to consider for the hotel industry to thrive in the future?
  • How does the future of business travel procurement look like?

The Future of Business Travel webcast panel included EY industry executives as well as executives from the corporate travel procurement industry, including: 

  • Umar Riaz, EY Americas Hospitality Sector Lead
  • Andrew Crawley, American Express, GBT Chief Commercial Officer
  • Eric Bailey, Microsoft, Global Procurement Director of Travel, Meetings and Events
  • Emma Jones, Willis Towers Watson, Procurement Director of Global Travel and Meetings and Events
  • Karen Hutchings, EY Global Travel, Meetings and Events Leader
  • Brian Tress, EY Global Solution Leader, Destination and Tourism Advisory 

The nine insights

Takeaways on the impact of COVID-19 on business travel:

Future of Business Travel insight 1 - The future will look different

While the innate value of business travel has been affirmed – especially regarding client relationships and the competitive edge it can bring – panelists agreed that it will inevitably be reduced and look different post-pandemic.

Future of Business Travel insight 2 - Employee well-being is paramount

Employee well-being has become even more important and will continue to increase, with companies focused on preserving health and safety and morale. With increased restrictions and approvals around business travel, it is likely that domestic business travel will bounce back faster than international, particularly long-haul. In addition, leisure travel looks set to be the first to recover as individuals have more autonomy and there is potentially huge pent-up demand.

Future of Business Travel insight 3 - Nimble response to COVID-19

Hotels have responded nimbly with COVID-19-secure protocols. Domestic recovery in countries such as China where transmission has been kept under control, with volumes edging up to pre-COVID-19 levels, shows there is still consumer desire and optimism for travel. Maintaining these protocols so people feel comfortable to travel is crucial.

Ways business travel will look different in the short term: 

Future of Business Travel insight 4 - Fewer trips, longer stays

There will be fewer trips but longer stays as a post-pandemic desire for less flying is accentuated by sustainability, which is a growing influence on corporate travel policy. As well as amalgamating several journeys into one, business travelers may add on personal days to enhance their experience. 

Future of Business Travel insight 5 - Fewer need to travel for meetings

Advances in technology are enabling a hybrid environment that means fewer people need to travel for meetings; where it might once have been six, now potentially it’s two with four virtually.

Future of Business Travel insight 6 - Internal travel reduced

Internal travel will be reduced, especially for training, with large events likely to be regionalized or split virtually (e.g., a 1,000-person conference reshaped into smaller conferences such as four meetings of 250).

Actions hotels need to consider to succeed with business travel: 

Future of Business Travel insight 7 - Embrace technology

It’s still going to have a huge impact on how meetings are held going forward so hotels will need seamless tech in place that’s better than people have at home in order to attract business.

Future of Business Travel insight 8 - Reimagine your space

Opportunities will arise as meetings and alternative office space in hotels become a real go-to solution, so the agility to adapt and repurpose large rooms and create spaces for shorter and more informal meetings is crucial.

Future of Business Travel insight 9 - Rethink your value proposition

Although leisure travel may rebound faster, it’s the least expensive segment, while high-loyalty members are usually business travelers. The corporate route is still the priority, and EY professionals can help reimagine business perspectives to see how best to navigate it.

Conclusion

A proactive vision is needed to reimagine how to attract and retain customers, the business operating model, customer loyalty programs that come predominantly from business travelers and the physical hotel space. 

Hear the full perspective by tuning in to our on-demand webcast: The Future of Business Travel, 2021.

Take a look at our hotel occupancy forecasting article to discover how we can help predict demand and help you plan for the future. 

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.

Summary

Business travel won’t look the same in the post-pandemic world, but businesses can prepare. EY and industry executives say that a clear vision and a new business operating model are needed to draw in and retain customers.

About this article

Authors
Umar Riaz

EY Americas Real Estate, Hospitality and Construction Advisory Leader

Bringing transformative strategies and solutions to businesses for more than 20 years. Multilingual and globally oriented. Deep thinker. Passionate about using technology to turn analysis into action.

Brian Tress

Global Future Destinations and Tourism Consulting Services Solutions Leader

Leading strategist and professional in the tourism sector. Thought leader in destination and tourism. Strong advocate of sustainable long-term approaches.