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BCD Travel Survey: Business travelers pinpoint shortcomings of virtual meetings and want decision-making power

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When it comes to corporate travel policies in a post-pandemic environment, survey respondents care mostly about being able to decide for themselves whether to travel (64%). In addition, they desire a more simplified trip approval process (58%) and the prioritizing of direct flights (53%).

UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS – Business travelers are raising concerns about the reliance on screen-based interaction as their primary meeting method. Now more than ever, they are also looking for control, ease and simplicity, according to a recent survey of 738 business travelers worldwide. Leading travel management company BCD Travel conducted the survey from July 6-20.

While virtual meetings and remote work are here to stay, business travel and face-to-face meetings remain extremely important. Seventy-six percent of survey respondents said business travel helps them perform their work efficiently. In a post-pandemic travel environment, 60% prefer to return to pre-pandemic levels of business travel, while 26% prefer to travel less and 9% to travel more.

When it comes to corporate travel policies in a post-pandemic environment, survey respondents care mostly about being able to decide for themselves whether to travel (64%). In addition, they desire a more simplified trip approval process (58%) and the prioritizing of direct flights (53%).

For remote versus face-to-face meetings, 74% rate in-person client meetings as the most important reason for business travel, followed by team building, sales meetings and meetings with partners or suppliers.

The main travel concerns remain consistent with previous BCD traveler survey results. Travelers mainly worry about quarantine on arrival, followed by concerns over sudden lockdowns and rapidly changing travel regulations.

Respondents believe remote work and meetings are here to stay, but they are clearly lacking when it comes to relationship building. They say the main weaknesses of virtual meetings are:

  • Lack of human contact (66%)
  • Limited interaction (58%)
  • Easy distraction (54%)
  • Unsuitability for some meeting types (51%)
  • “Zoom fatigue” and technology issues (49%)

“Meeting face-to-face not only remains a critical component to achieving company goals, it’s also essential to satisfying businesses' need for efficiency and human interaction,” said Mike Janssen, Global Chief Operating Officer and Chief Commercial Officer at BCD Travel. “With vaccinations growing by millions every day, a majority of the workforce is ready to go back on the road, notwithstanding recent spikes of the COVID-19 variant. In a post-pandemic environment, corporations need to continue giving guidance. In order to remain an attractive employer in this fast-developing environment, they should also consider empowering employees to make their own travel decisions.”

“While in some parts of the world the pandemic is slowly receding, other parts might continue to rely on virtual meetings,” said Scott Graf, Global President at BCD Meetings & Events. “Event planners and managers need to up their game with a new skill set that allows them to compensate for the weaknesses of virtual meetings, such as the lack of interaction. Training or outsourced support can be the answer to keep employees focused and motivated in a continually challenging environment.”

Additional highlights from the survey:
Respondents also shared their views on the future of work. Currently, 57% are working remotely, compared to 24% before the pandemic. When asked about the future workplace:

  • 71% prefer a mix of remote and office work
  • 20% favor full-time remote work
  • Only 6% give preference to full-time office work

When asked about bleisure:

  • 49% say they might extend a business trip for a few leisure days
  • 38% like to travel for work accompanied by a partner or friend
  • 33% like to extend their stay and continue remote working at the destination
  • 32% consider combining a business trip with a vacation of 1-2 weeks
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