Face-to-face – external business meetings will be the ultimate driver in the recovery of corporate travel

An increasing number of businesses have adapted favourably to the new working from home environment and many now plan to employ it, or a more blended working option between home and office, as a permanent feature moving forward. But, just because corporations see the value and perhaps financial benefits of reducing their office footprint, it doesn’t mean a similar course of action will follow for travel.

The videoconferencing industry has been helping to power business during the pandemic, but we appear to becoming a little tired of using the platforms and perhaps a little in the monotony of constant home working and online meeting after online meeting, occasionally interrupted by webinar after webinar.

Whether via Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or Slack, video conferencing has acted like a first responder during the health crisis and permitting business to keep in touch with staff and customers and maintain some form of ongoing relationship.

New technologies like chatbot-powered messaging apps, mobile booking assistants, and artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced travel tools have entered the mix, empowering more traveller independence and delivering reduced costs for the organisations that deploy them.

Technology is now seen as a key driver of the industry adapting its practices to meet new standard requirements and business protocols. But in conflict with the return of business travel the development of artificial intelligence meeting tools, means there now remains a big question market over future levels of business travel.

Even before Covid-19 had hit companies had started to realise that there were some big opportunities for improving the way meetings and events were planned. Many a report has now been written about how the resurgence of business travel could be influenced by the explosion of video conferencing which has meant a lot of business meetings now routinely take place online.

Some saw their value; others were not sold. But many, having now seen it in action now appreciate its value. But conferences and trade shows still have merit and there are businesses who still believe face-to-face meetings are critical competitive requirements. The video conferencing industry will take a greater prominence, but many argue they have had their place in the business world for many years now and we have not seen a correlated decline in business travel.

Technology certainly has a role to play in the future. Video calls work well when relationships are established and when communication styles are known. They can even help to grow and deepen relationships. Are these improved video technologies better than a phone call? Yes. But are they robust enough to fully enable the world’s work?

Technology will certainly help influence how meetings take place in the future and will be a substitute to some degree, but will not be a replacement for business travel. But what type of meetings will ultimately drive the growth of the corporate travel?

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