Business Travel On The Rise ; Virtual Meetings Losing Primacy

19 February 2024

Source: Business Travel On The Rise ; Virtual Meetings Losing Primacy, by Bill Mcintyre, The HR Director, February 17, 2024

Virtual Meetings
Photo credits: The HR Director’s website

Business travel continues to increase, and virtual meetings are losing dominance as a replacement for work-related travel. According to the Global Rescue Winter Traveler Sentiment and Safety survey, respondents traveling for business jumped 37% compared to survey results nearly a year ago. More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents said their business travel would be both international and domestic. 

“In-person meetings are more effective at establishing and maintaining relationships. It’s no surprise that work-related travel is rising,” said Dan Richards, CEO of The Global Rescue Companies, the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. 

More than a fifth of business travelers (22%) reported work-related travel will exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2024, doubling the 11% reported in 2023. Early last year, 35% of business travelers said business travel would be “half or less than half” of pre-pandemic levels. Now, a year later, that percentage has dropped by a third with only 23% of business travelers reporting that their work-related travel would be half or less than pre-pandemic levels. 

Virtual meetings and video conference calls are losing their dominance as a replacement for business travel, according to the survey. More than half (56%) of business travelers responding to the survey said virtual meetings and video conferences are not replacing in-person business travel to a significant extent. 

“The days of traveling long distances for one meeting with one person could be gone forever, but people will travel for business at scale into perpetuity,” Richards said.   

“Virtual meetings have their place, but they can’t replace face-to-face meetings,” said Paul Mullen, Vice President of sales at Global Rescue. “Personal interaction will always be more effective at establishing and maintaining relationships, fostering trust and driving company growth.”  

“You can’t get to know a prospect, current client or business partner professionally and personally when you’re not in person,” Mullen said. “In a video chat, there is more opportunity for distraction and multitasking, the meetings themselves can feel rushed, the technology can glitch. That’s not how you maintain a strong business relationship that lasts.”   

As business travel increases globally, so do the challenges facing employers who must balance employee safety in the face of threats of international violent conflicts, terrorism and civil unrest. “The biggest management challenge in this evolving environment will be how duty of care plays a role in protecting a business traveler and a location-independent workforce,” Richards said. “Business leaders have to ask themselves if a set of rules or policies designed to maintain the health, safety and well-being of their employees are in place.”   

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of business travelers surveyed (74%) say they do not have or do not know if they have a duty of care policy in place. The majority of the 26% of business travelers who say they have duty of care provisions in place reported the policy includes pre-trip planning, health alerts, on-trip event alerts, on-trip security or travel tracking.   

“Business leaders carry a duty of care responsibility to their employees, to take care of them and avoid exposing them to any unnecessary or undue risk. As global work-related travel continues to increase, the more duty of care policies must evolve,” Richards said.   

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