Travel Receives a Knockout Blow from the Pandemic. Business Travel Crumbles to New Lows at -54%
The global market for Business Travel is expected to decline by -54% in the year 2020 and -4.5% in the year 2021 and thereafter recover to reach US$829.5 billion by the year 2027, trailing a post COVID-19 CAGR of 3% over the analysis period 2020 through 2027. The travel industry has been one of the worst hit sectors due to the COVID-19 outbreak, with lockdowns, travel bans, restrictions and quarantines denting revenue generation for the industry. The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on business travel has been particularly severe. Business travel almost came to a standstill during the pandemic, forcing many companies to hold virtual meetings due to stay-at-home restrictions. With over 90% of the global population in countries or territories with some form of travel restrictions and lockdowns, many international events and conferences have been cancelled or postponed while some essential meetings are being scheduled using virtual platforms. Many companies have witnessed the benefits of digital solutions at their disposal for effective remote working. This reduces not only energy consumption but also maintenance costs and travel emissions. Hence some businesses may continue the trend of remote working even after the travel restrictions are lifted. In April 2020, during the early days of global COVID-19 spread, 98% of the member countries of GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) cancelled their international business tours and 92% of them halted all or most of their domestic trips.
Business travel can be defined as domestic or international travel undertaken by employees to attend various business-related activities including meetings, product launches, trade shows and marketing of companies to further improve business prospects. Comprising work, entertainment, accommodation and transportation, business travel is among the major contributors to the global economy. Employees of multinational organizations often travel to destinations in various countries for business and marketing purposes. There are a variety of agencies and travel companies in the market addressing the needs of the business travel industry, which compete based on safety measures, service portfolios, government licensing and pricing. Growth in business travel has provided organizations the option of managing travel requirements of their employees using travel programs, services and online self-booking tools offered by travel management corporations. Corporate business travels until now was a vital part of a company's operations. However, in the future, in-person meetings will be greatly reduced and most of the work will be managed from homes using advanced tools. Various new tools that are capable of replacing physical meetings is evolving rapidly.
A key reason for business travel is for meeting suppliers and customers and video calls show strong potential to replace the in-person meetings, resulting in less business travels for the sales persons. Business travels that are meant for trainings and other learning activities will also be reduced and e-learning will witness rapid adoption rates. Another major travel reason is to motivate and reward customers or employees which can also be carried out remotely. Employees of most companies have already become familiar with virtual meetings due to the pandemic, thus reducing significance of face-to-face meetings. Many businesses have adapted to the new trend in a much better way and will continue to retain these changes. The continuing spread of COVID-19 infections worldwide is expected mute all face-to-face global gatherings in the year 2020. The rising popularity and success of cloud videoconferencing services is expected to permanently kill all non-essential business travel. Cross-border travel is set to become complicated & confusing with regulations like health passports expected to disincentives corporate travel plans. The only opportunities for growth will come from life sciences companies were business travel is necessary for training. In the post COVID-19 period, millennials born after the mid-90s who are likely to rule the workplace will significantly influence dynamics of whatever is left of the travel industry. Also known as Gen Z, Millennials are always connected to smartphones and social media, seek fast Wi-Fi and use hash tags to describe objects and feelings. Business travel will be highly influenced by them over the next decade with their desire to be in a certain place only at a certain time. The travel sector will facilitate this need by using multiple options IoT has to offer. With this as a goal, key travel players are using the digital platform to make the right offer to the right customer at the right time. IoT will make this possible with personalization of all services connected to the travel industry. Internet of things (IoT) & artificial intelligence (AI) will increasingly be introduced in the travel, hotel and airline sectors to improve customer satisfaction. AI and ML can also differentiate between junior and senior level executives and suggest booking options based on the eligibility as well as the personal preferences of the user. In addition, AI and ML can simplify expense reports as employees will need to just upload photos of receipts as opposed to filling out stipulated forms. The machine would read the photos and update the expenses, thus simplifying the process as well as negating the chances for errors. The process also simplifies audit for the company. In addition to the benefits for regular issues, AI and ML can also provide additional benefits for the employee as well as the company. Employee safety when traveling is the company's responsibility. As such, AI and ML can provide timely updates for advisories related to travel, health, environmental, political and social situations at the destination, ensuring security for the employee. For instance, AI and ML can alert the company and the employee to potential issues related to natural calamities or safety related information such as political unrest or terrorist attacks.
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