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A New Segment of Business Traveler Inspired by The Future of Work

As featured in THE COMPANY DIME –

The corporate travel market has traditionally been divided into two segments: standard transient travel and meeting & event (M&E) travel. However, the transformation accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic has inspired a new third segment of business travel, comprising what some call a “return to base.” Essentially, this defines any employees or teams who were not business travelers in the past, that will now be required to travel for internal meetings and events.

According to Keith Barr, CEO of IHG, “Instead of driving to the office five days a week, employees may have to fly in once a month. And so they’re going to have to use hotels as gathering places to do things in the past with them in their offices.”

This emerging segment of internal M&E behaves differently than traditional M&E travel but benefits from the same technology used to manage all components of the meeting experience.

What is the Future of Work?

The term “future of work” has quickly become the term coined to describe the massive disruption the pandemic has unleashed on how people and companies work.

One of the most significant disruptions to emerge from the pandemic is the work from anywhere model, driving organizations to rethink the amount of space they need and lean towards reducing their real-estate footprints.

Video conferencing and other collaboration tools have empowered employees to work virtually and stay connected to their teammates and customers without the need for a commute into the office each day. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of both Twitter and Square, informed his employees that they could continue working from home “forever.” This was followed by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, announcing that his employees can also work from home. Even JPMorgan announced a “rotational model” for their corporate and bank employees, which number around 60,000 workers.

According to the FlexJobs study, 95% of remote workers have been equally or more productive overall since leaving the office; 73% say remote work has improved their work-life balance, and 81% would be more loyal to their employer if they were offered flexible work options moving forward.

Now that organizations of all types and sizes have realized they can make do with less office space, and the office will have to become a destination for collaboration and community. Companies and employees also recognize they still require in-person engagement for both culture-building purposes and accelerate teamwork on key projects.

This has inspired the emergence of the third segment of corporate travel, distinct from traditional large meeting and event groups.

While this disruption and work from anywhere influx may be creating a negative impact for the commercial real estate market, and disrupting HR strategies, it’s also introducing a new type of demand within the corporate travel sector.

This transformation has led organizations to rethink their policies and budgets – shifting spend to technology that supports this evolving new environment. These policies and budgets may fall partly or wholly within the IT or HR departments.

So, what does this new segment of business travel need when it comes to technology?

In 2021 and beyond, technology will play a critical role in reducing spend, with digitization, automation, and the enhanced use of virtual and hybrid meetings and events. In essence, the functionality needs to address this new business travel segment of small group travel and internal meetings, all use cases, departments on an enterprise and global level. Acting as a centralized hub, all members and departments within an organization will need to have unparalleled access to the tools they need to manage sourcing, registration, travel, the duty of care, workflows, and spend.

Hybrid: While the pandemic turned Zoom and other virtual meeting tools into a household name, they do not support in-person or hybrid meetings effectively, if at all. Comparing costs and ROI, an all-in-one enterprise solution has significant advantages vs. single solution virtual tools.

All Use Cases: What used to be technology used by procurement, meetings admins, or travel managers must now be applicable for HR teams now responsible for managing their newly distributed workforce, including recruiting, onboarding, training, internal meetings, company retreats, and other employee engagement events to foster team-building and company culture. Companies now want to invest in the event experience for internal meetings like they have for external meetings in the past. The company-wide enterprise software must also complement collaboration tools for managing the in-person and hybrid company meetings (Slack, Teams/MS Office, G Suite, Zoom, etc.)

Spend Governance: Client management and sales teams, who will now have an even greater need to reconvene their internal teams who were previously co-located in the same office, will need to drive or fly more frequently to do so. With reduced travel budgets, we will see fewer one-off trips to visit a customer or make a sales pitch. Instead, customer success and sales teams will be shifting to an inbound model where customers and prospects are invited into a central location for meetings, workshops, onboarding, etc. The same goes for executive sessions and board meetings that have traditionally been held at headquarters.

Easy to Use and DIY: The technology will also need to be easy to use by anyone, not just professional planners. Executive admins who organize these sessions will take on meeting and event planning duties that are more complex than traditional HDQ-based events. Travel Managers will also be taking on new tasks and responsibilities with the convergence of meetings and travel. HR will be using the technology to help teams work better while also reimaging recruiting initiatives. The list goes on to marketing, projects, training, and other departments not traditionally directly involved with events and travel.

Though most of us agree that working from home has its benefits, we also miss the intrinsic human experience of working together – face-to-face. Looking ahead, the focus for organizational leaders will be on creating a new work world that will keep employees happy and productive, fostering demand for a new segment of travel and meetings that will become the norm at workplaces globally.

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