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Business tourism woes: One in ten former flyers won’t fly for business post-Covid

More than two in five (44%) who won’t continue travelling for business say it’s due to the ease of online meetings

Business travel is set to take a major hit in the aftermath of the pandemic, with almost 10% of UK business leaders who travelled for work pre-Covid planning to take fewer business trips in the future, according to new research.

The survey, conducted by The University of Law Business School, found that almost half (44%) of the respondents who stated they won’t continue flying for business in the future said that this is due to the convenience of virtual meetings, which have been heavily relied upon during the pandemic.

A 10% decrease in business travellers will have a huge impact on the industry. With ONS data showing a spend of £1,045,000,000 in Q1 of 2020, this drop could see spending on business travel plummet by over £100m. With airlines already struggling to recover from being one of the hardest-hit industries since March 2020, business travellers opting to stick to online meetings will be yet another blow.

Of those who are planning to continue travelling for business, they are planning to do so less frequently than previously. Only 20% are now planning to travel a least once a quarter, a 7% decrease compared to the pre-pandemic rates.

Almost a third (30%) of respondents stated that the cost of air travel is prohibitive. Many businesses are looking to cut costs and recover from the pandemic, therefore it is no surprise that finances play a part in these decisions.

The research also shows that on average, people are planning on taking one less business trip a year once all travel restrictions are lifted internationally.

The reluctance to travel for business post pandemic fluctuates depending on which sector people work in. Based on the average number of days respondents anticipated to spend travelling internationally for business, the industries likely to see the biggest decreases in international travel are:

1. Recruitment and HR (-5.2 trips)
2. Retail (-3.9)
3. Accounting, business and finance (-3.5)
4. Science and Pharmaceuticals (-3.3)
5. Public services and admin (-3)
6. Teacher training and education (-2.5)
7. Teacher training and education (-2.5)
8. Transport and logistics (-1.3)
9. Media and internet (-1)
10. Property and construction (0.9)

Those working in HR and Recruitment are now the least likely to travel overseas for business, having seen the biggest difference. On average, workers in this sector are now planning to take five fewer trips a year. Workers in retail were also high up on this list, with four fewer trips per annum.

Notably, 28% of decision makers in Law Enforcement and Security flew abroad as much as once a week prior the pandemic. However, when asked about their predictions for post-pandemic, the number of respondents in this industry expecting to travel abroad for business less that once a year doubled from 14% to 28%.

Marco Mongiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor, The University of Law Business School, commented:

“Having operated virtually for more than a year, businesses have recognised the benefits that flexible, remote working can provide to both the business, their clients and their employees. We cannot deny that face-to-face meetings come with intrinsic benefits, but with technology evolving, business leaders and their employees are able to work from anywhere in the world, whilst still being able to communicate with their team and work effectively. Conducting fully virtual or hybrid meetings to engage employees, stakeholders and business partners is an opportunity available to most businesses.

“I anticipate that now, the key skills that employers will look out for will not only be digital literacy, communication and others that would be expected, but also the ability to navigate online conferencing platforms, and using new technologies with ease.

“This could be a real driver of change for the business travel industry. Businesses which once spent thousands of pounds per year on international travel could cut that spend to zero, instead investing in virtual conferencing and meeting facilities, which have naturally boomed in popularity over the past year.“


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Notes to the editors:

1. Survey of 500 UK business leaders by The Leadership Factor on behalf of The University of Law Business School in May 2021