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Has Zoom Killed In-Room?

In late 2020, in between lockdowns, we were legally, logistically, and safely able to bring together eleven leading travel managers and industry experts to discuss the future of business travel in a 1.5 day event and process we called MACROSCOPE “Live”. The theme of the event, ‘Big Thinking to Create Next Generation Business Travel’, provided an opportunity for the first face-to-face meeting that many of us had had in months and ultimately acted as a foundation for the development of our Purposeful Travel Model, due for release shortly.

As a pre-read for industry stakeholders, in advance of the forthcoming release of the Purposeful Travel Model, we felt it was important to summarise the external stimuli which resulted in the big thinking by our event attendees.

In part one of this series of three blogs, we looked at what we have learnt in the past 12 months and whether the concerns that had previously prevented such a change to virtual working actually materialised. We defined what we miss out on, both individually and collectively, when travel is off the table.

In this, the third and final part of the puzzle, we look at the future of business travel and how you, as a travel professional, can influence the thinking in your organisation toward a more Purposeful approach.

We believe that the output of the MACROSCOPE “Live”, this ‘big-thinking for big-thinkers’ exercise, provides a broader view into the future of the workplace and therefore business travel. From the feedback of the delegates at MACROSCOPE “Live” the stimulus really got them thinking – but what do you think?  We look forward to hearing your reactions.

So, what for the future of business travel?

In an interview with 3rd year UCL student, Clara Floreani, she (and her peer group) shared the following word associations with face-to-face and virtual meetings. Although a general assumption exists that new generations entering the workforce are much happier to work virtually, what they are also seeking takes us back to Jonti Dalal-Small’s interpretation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: connection, purpose, pleasure, and recognition. And perhaps for the first time, the shift in power dynamic is such that they will be a lot more vocal about this. That is not to say that Clara and her peers do not rate virtual engagements. They shared that it allows them to reach wider audiences and to be themselves. From a diversity and inclusion point of view it also allows those, who would struggle to attend something in person, to participate and contribute. But the power of face to face meet ups remains strong.

According to the CIPD, as we look forward to 2030, the people profession will need to ‘adapt people functions for the context they are working in and role-model adaptive, agile ways of working within their own teams.’[1]

Dr. Keith Mason’s forecast for the future of business travel demonstrates a positive outlook. He notes a 90% reduction in business travel in 2020 and HY1 2021 but starts to note positive upward trends in 2022. Using IATA’s 20 year forecast as his base, he forecasts a range of scenarios whereby, at best, we see a 13.7% reduction against IATA’s original forecast, and at worst, a 44.5% reduction, should sustainability and environmental factors play a much larger role that they do today. There are, however, several variables to be considered, as outlined below:

    • Strength of cultural and psychological attachment to business travel
    • Growth / return of “bleisure” (business/leisure blur)
    • Generational shift online and preference / acceptance of working online by younger people entering the workforce

He does however believe that the purpose of travel will play a greater role in decision making going forward.

What Next for Travel Managers?

At FESTIVE ROAD, we strongly believe that we are entering the era of Purposeful Travel, where the true value of business travel will be realised because the true value of face-to-face is understood. We are at a unique crossroads, where we have a real chance of understanding the real ROI of travel and deciding which types of trip are worthy of investment.

How will we get there? It may be that as travel managers, we will need to have some tough internal discussions. It feels incredibly risky to suggest starting with a blank piece of paper and to effectively default all meetings (be they for organisation, client, or people purposes) to virtual. However, in doing this, we encourage a shift in mindset.

Imagine if we truly are experiencing a revolution in working practices. Where all of the benefits of home working could continue to be realised, employees continued to be empowered and their wellbeing continued to be a business priority. However, what if, when employees truly needed to travel, they did so in the knowledge that their businesses really valued their contribution. That there was a concerted effort to create working environments and work experiences that sparked real creativity and innovation. That employees felt a real purpose to the work they were doing and a sense of belonging.

We feel the call for purpose – do you?

Produced by Louise Kilgannon, United Kingdom

To find out more about the Purposeful Travel Model click here

Go to Purposeful Travel - External Stimulus Part 1 of 3


Acknowledgements For The “Purposeful travel External Stimuli Series”:

  • Dr. Keith Mason, Professor of Transport, Cranfield University
  • Katie Jacobs, Senior Stakeholder Lead, CIPD, and business journalist
  • Jonti Dalal-Small, Business Psychologist and Behavioural Scientist, Capita Travel & Events
  • Road Warrior ‘Chris’, senior director of a global pharmaceutical company who previously travelled weekly to USA and Asia
  • Clara Floreani, 3rd Year UCL Student

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