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Doing Business Travel Differently: A Look at Current Trends

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What comes to mind when you think of business travel? For most people, business travel evokes ideas like cross-country flights, sharp suits, and a hefty wad of travel-related receipts.

But times are changing. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to rethink business travel, and many business professionals today are more aware of the negative impact that work trips have on the environment.

However, concerns for the environment and a rocky economic outlook do not signal the end of business travel. It just means that the business travel sector has to adapt to current trends and plan for a new future.

Crunching the numbers

When talking about trends, it is easy to get wrapped up in consumer behavior and forget the importance of quantitative data. But business leaders in the travel sector need a combination of consumer awareness and an appreciation of economic data to understand the terrain of business travel today.

According to a McKinsey report, the total global business travel sector contracted by 52% at the height of the pandemic. Similarly, total corporate spending dropped 71%, which equaled an economic loss of $94 billion.

Increased vaccination rates have now reopened almost all sectors of public life and businesses have largely returned to “normal.” For businesses involved in travel, this new normal may be driven to new heights as small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will increase spending on travel to gain a competitive advantage over digital adopters who no longer plan to spend on travel.

It is important to note that, despite an SMB-fueled rebound, business travel spending is still down from pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, US firms spent a total of $270 billion on domestic business travel. Current predictions show that only $206 billion will be spent on business travel in 2022 — a dip of $64 billion.

This dip in spending shouldn’t come as a surprise. The digital and remote working industry has been booming over the past year, as digital meeting companies like Zoom have grown their revenue by over 300% since the pandemic began.

A view of an airport with business travelers.

Rise of digital nomads

Rapid growth in the digital and remote working industries may seem like a bad thing for business travel. After all, if companies can host a cross-country meeting from their own homes, then why would they choose to ever step on a plane and incur the hefty costs associated with travel?

In reality, increased remote working has added fuel to the sub-sector of remote working and business travelers known as digital nomads, which were already a popular demographic among Millennials pre-Covid.

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Digital nomads work remotely but differ from typical remote workers in a few ways. Firstly, digital nomads aren’t tethered to a particular location but, as the name suggests, work wherever they like. This is largely facilitated by the rise of internet-based jobs, meaning that folks can even travel internationally while holding down a full-time job.

Digital nomadism is popular amongst progressive businesses, too. There are plenty of benefits to hiring a digital nomad as reduced recruitment costs, a wider talent pool, and lower labor costs help businesses bring in the best talent at a fraction of the expense.

Although digital nomads do not have a permanent location, they still need a space to get their work done. This is where the business travel and coworking industry comes in. Digital nomads need a stable internet connection and distraction-free space for working and meetings, and business travel hubs like Houston and Phoenix are leading the way towards a future of flexible working solutions.

Workspaces for digital nomads

The increase in digital nomadism is great news for the business travel and coworking sectors. People from across the world can check in to shared workspaces and start to take advantage of the freedom that working on the web offers.

However, businesses who want to respond to the digital nomad trend must take care to provide a quality, reliable service to would-be travelers. Having just one slip-up like a mass Wi-Fi outage will lead to lost progress and even negative reviews that turn would-be clients away.

Businesses can attract digital nomads by creating productive coworking spaces that support a range of workers. When designing these spaces, businesses must make space for collaborative work as well as private areas. Typically this means that blueprints should include a range of open-plan desks for individuals as well as conference-style rooms for people who need privacy while working.

Every worker should also have access to reliable, high-speed internet. This means that business-grade routers are a must and ethernet connections should be made possible for anyone working in the space.

Conclusion

Business travel is a rapidly changing industry. The pandemic forced many companies in the travel industry to re-think their approach as lockdowns and restrictions caused mass contraction across the sector.

Today, companies can take advantage of the rebound in business travel by providing quality, reliable workspaces for digital nomads and traveling professionals alike.

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About Author

Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She writes about a variety of topics, and spends her free time in her garden.

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