Experts predict business travel would return by fall, but a recent Global Rescue survey found more than half of business travelers (61%) have already taken their first multi-day domestic business trip.

“Business travel is returning due to climbing COVID-19 vaccination levels and the gradual reduction in government quarantine and testing requirements. Nevertheless, post-pandemic travel trepidations linger,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue.  

International business travel is growing at a much slower pace. According to the survey, which polled more than 1,400 of Global Rescue’s current and former members between July 27-31, 2021, 17% of business travelers have already taken their first multi-day international business trip of the year. A little more than a quarter (27%) expect to do so between now and March 2022. Forty-five percent have no plans for international business travel. 

Why less global business travel? Travel risk management for international travel is complex. Employees have more pre-trip questions; need assistance with paperwork, such as vaccination documentation; and are frequently subjected to fewer flight options, more layovers and an increased chance of cancellation. Employers need travel risk management programs in place from prevention to awareness to response. According to a July poll by the Global Business Travel Association, 69% of respondents believe risk management and duty of care are more important than before the pandemic. 

“Never have business leaders been more aware and more concerned about the duty of care they have to their traveling employees,” Richards said. “Today, the risk profile for business travel is different, and business traveler awareness is at its highest levels.” 


Business Travel Included in a Hybrid Work Schedule 

Work-from-home mandates have morphed into a hybrid work model of partial work from home and partial work from office. More than half of survey respondents (54%) who travel for business reported that their company is using, or going to use, a hybrid model of work on- and off-site. 

“If the pandemic demonstrated anything about remote working, it is that productive work can be done from almost anywhere – and people are going to take advantage of that,” Richards said.  

This hybrid work model will not reduce business travel, according to 61% of respondents. Despite the availability of online conferencing apps, 35% of business travelers said they expect video conferencing to replace about half of routine business travel in the future. Another 27% said they expect to use video conferencing sparingly and return to routine business travel for in-person business and sales meetings as the pandemic health threat abates.  

Sixteen percent said they believe video conferencing will replace most of the business travel for in-person business meetings and sales meetings. More than a fifth (21%) said they don’t use video conferencing in their business.  

“While video conferencing will likely reduce total business travel volume in the near term, there is no substitute for being in the same room with others,” Richards said. “While the days of traveling long distances for one meeting with one person could be gone forever, people will travel for business at scale into perpetuity.” 

According to a study by Forbes Insight, people believe they build stronger business relationships during face-to-face meetings, events and conferences. Global Rescue respondents agree: 90% of business travelers surveyed said in-person business and sales meetings are “without a doubt” or “generally” more successful than video conferencing. Technology is convenient, but in-person meetings build trust. 

What Business Travelers Want 

Informed travelers are safer travelers, and employees taking business trips want to know their employer has their back. The survey found the biggest concerns about future work-related travel are:  

  • being quarantined (29%) 
  • being infected with coronavirus (30%) 
  • border closing (23%) 
  • poor medical infrastructure at their destinations (10%) 
  • insufficient emergency response by their company during a medical or security emergency (6%) 

“Mitigating those risks falls to an organization’s chief security officer, travel manager and human resources director, who are accountable for the development and oversight of policies, programs and logistics protecting traveling staff,” Richards said. “Employees turn to them to do everything possible to keep them as safe as possible.”  

Travel risk management programs provide a duty of care responsibility to employees. Key components include prevention, such as intelligence gathering during the trip planning process; awareness, like a tracking program and alert system for travelers; and response, which would include medical assistance and field rescue should an incident occur.  

“All components are necessary to take care of employees and avoid exposing them to any unnecessary or undue risk,” said Richards. 

Global Rescue provides travel risk management consulting services to organizations of all sizes that need to meet duty of care requirements. For more information, click here.