Business trips: fewer, different and more expensive

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According to statistics, the number of business trips fell by 80% in 2020 alone. Several business travel providers went bankrupt, rolling suitcases, masks, coffee in the dining car were signs of the past.

In 2021: 30% more growth than in 2020

But it doesn’t seem possible without them: in 2021, despite complex quarantine and testing rules, there were 30% more business trips than in 2020.

Alexander Albert – BCD Travel

Since the spring of last year, the numbers have literally exploded.

There is no exact data for the whole of the past year, but the industry agrees on one thing: it will be high. “We were still expecting a wave from the bow,” says Alexander Albert, German boss of the world’s third largest business travel provider, BCD Travel, and Chairman of the Business Travel Committee of the German Travel Association (DRV). The intensity even surprised him.

A catch-up?

He sees several causes, including a simple need to catch up. Postponed projects, postponed conferences, have accumulated over the past two years. In addition, there were supply bottlenecks caused by the pandemic and the war in Europe: “Especially with the supply chain issues, the need for personal exchange was immense,” says Albert. At the same time, 2022 marked a turning point in health policy: many people were vaccinated in the spring, and restrictions were lifted in many countries. The latter, says Albert, were decisive. Before that, many employees weren’t allowed to travel – because the company was afraid of the effort and cost, or because countries like China simply banned entry. And even if people were allowed to travel, the organization was too complicated. ”

For many people, the creative exchange works primarily on a personal level.

Now that traveling is easier again, people are packing for another reason: the appreciation for direct exchange has grown. This was shown by a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial and Organizational Engineering. Working with the German Convention Bureau, which markets Germany as an event location, workplace researchers have found that events there are perceived to be of above-average importance for creative exchanges. And this despite the fact that for many people they represent only a small part of working time. “Networking is easier for many in personal contacts”, explains Stefan Rief, director of studies and institutes. “This also includes, for example, being introduced by someone or making casual contacts. »

Longer business trips

Unlike a tourist trip, a business trip is not planned for a shorter duration, but for a longer duration. The consultation time has almost tripled compared to before the pandemic, explains Albert, the boss of BCD Germany. From simple questions about the booking process to more complex contingency planning, more and more people are picking up the phone again. The need for advice was particularly great right after the reboot. “Business travelers have also had to relearn how to travel,” explains Albert. This is gradually stabilizing, but at a higher level.

The needs have also changed.

A current DRV survey shows that 10% more business travelers than in previous years are concerned about their safety on the road. The spectrum ranges from major health issues to minor practical issues. “Questions like” What happens if I suddenly have a positive corona test on the spot? “keep people busy,” says Albert. Travelers want emergency numbers and local hazard information ahead of time. At the same time, researcher Rief discovered that they wanted to live more: “People are finding it more important than before to immerse themselves in the local environment, to network with what is going there. Before the pandemic, knowledge transfer was more important. »

Trains and rental cars have been especially popular since the pandemic

Business travelers generally take longer trips…no wonder, especially in Europe, that travelers often choose to take the train instead of the plane. Rental cars have also been particularly popular since the pandemic. “In the rental car, I only breathe my own air,” says Albert. “The classic, that you fly to Paris in the morning for a one-hour meeting and come back in the evening, is now a big exception,” says Albert. According to his estimates, day trips represent a maximum of 20% of trips. Instead, appointments are combined.

Business travel has become more expensive

Energy prices and the shortage of skilled labor also drive up travel and accommodation costs. To this day, there are hotels where restaurants or entire floors are closed because there is a lack of staff, explains Albert. Many businesses in the hospitality industry are also having to make up for borrowing costs and lost revenue in recent years. This explains why the number of trips has declined, but why sales are already above the 2019 level in some cases. Industry-wide, Albert expects 80-85% of 2019 sales in 2023.

Standardization by 2026?

Albert estimates: 2026. He carefully watched developments in China and Russia, where a large proportion of business travel went. During his career, he has experienced many upheavals in the industry, such as the Sars virus. “Previously, seizures occurred every six to seven years, but now the intervals have become shorter,” says Albert. The fact that more and more developments on the other side of the world determine the number of people in this country who access business class has long been a part of everyday life. “This shows above all how globalized we all live. »

With information disseminated by

Catherine Mills Avatar