Business travel volumes are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels over the next two years, although patterns may change.
This is just one of the findings revealed in the new Back to Blue Skies report from American Express and American Express Global Business Travel, released today.
“Over the last year, we’ve heard from our clients, which range from small and mid-sized businesses to large and global corporations, that in-person connections cannot be replicated,” said Gunther Bright, executive vice-president, Global Commercial Services, American Express. “Our Back to Blue Skies report affirms this sentiment, suggesting that while some meetings are easily done virtually, others are much more valuable when they take place face-to-face. We expect many organizations will take a hybrid approach to doing business in the future, and we’ll continue to work to meet their needs as they return to business travel.”
“Decision-makers are ready to get their employees back to blue skies safely and are optimistic that while business travel patterns might shift with a more dispersed workforce, volumes will return,” said David Reimer, executive vice-president, Global Clients and general manager, American Express Global Business Travel. “As we’ve heard from clients and this survey confirmed, many corporate decision-makers are looking for support on how they should evolve travel policies to drive employee confidence to get back to traveling for work.”
Key insights from the report include:
- Anticipated Return: 83% of decision-makers are optimistic that business travel will return to previous levels over the next two years.
- Future Travel: Seven in 10 (69%) decision-makers surveyed believe increased remote work will lead to more business travel in the future.
- Professional Growth: 82% of business travelers cite business travel plays a valuable role in their professional development, helping them perform better at their job, and 83% say it gives them more job fulfillment.
- Cultural Growth: Decision-makers (88%) are as likely as business travelers (88%) to agree that business travel broadens cultural understanding.
- Recruitment: Decision-makers overwhelmingly agreed that business travel is important to attract (84%) and retain (83%) top talent.
- Screen Fatigue: 82% of business travelers and 79% of decision-makers say the benefits of in-person meetings outweigh the convenience of virtual participation.
- Hybrid Meeting Needs: Four in five business travelers prefer in-person brainstorms and collaborative meetings over virtual ones (79%), as well as in-person sales meetings over virtual ones (78%).
- Relationship Building: Although the increased use of videoconferencing technologies has enabled connections over the past year, 60% of business travelers and 63% of decision-makers believe creating valuable business relationships with others has been more difficult over the last year.
- Challenging Connections: The top challenges for creating new business relationships virtually include assessing professional chemistry (56% of business travelers and 53% of decision-makers), gauging real-time response (52% of both business travelers and decision-makers), and lacking informal interactions with potential partners (57% of business travelers and 61% of decision-makers).
- Leadership Skills: 88% of business travelers believe business travel can contribute to stronger leadership skills.
- Company Culture: Nearly all respondents cited business travel as benefiting company culture (87% of decision-makers and 88% of business travelers).
- Engagement, Productivity and Problem Solving: Business travelers said business travel increases their engagement (88%), productivity (84%), problem-solving skills (86%) and makes them more empathetic individuals (82%).
- Creativity and Innovation: 88% of business travelers cited business travel as a way to fuel creativity and innovation. Business travelers also find work travel rewarding in that it gives them the opportunity to explore different cultures (58%) and viewpoints (55%) and pushes them to get out of the day-to-day monotony of their jobs and provides opportunities to get out of their comfort zone (55%).
- Return of Business Travel: 83% of decision-makers are optimistic that business travel volumes will return to previous levels over the next two years.
- Wellbeing and Safety: 85% of decision-makers say they believe if an employee travels for work, their organization is responsible for their safety and well-being throughout the trip.