Monday 23 August 2021 2:47 pm

Turn off Zoom: London City airport exec bullish on the return of business travel

Business travel is expected to quickly rebound in 2022, as executives ditch Zoom calls and return to Europe, the US and beyond to press the flesh, a London City airport executive said today.

So far, business travel has lagged behind leisure travel in recovery, as technological alternatives has proven cheaper and more resilient to the changing rules that have hampered aviation since the Covid-19 pandemic.

London City airport chief commercial officer Richard Hill told the BBC its corporate customers in the City of London and Canary Wharf “are optimistic about a phased return of business travel”.

“We do expect the network to slowly grow back over the rest of the year. From 2022 we’ll see it slowly grow back to where it was in 2019,” he said.

“We don’t think technology will completely replace (business) being done in person.

“Historically, technology has been additive, they do not take away from the need for face-to-face meetings, meeting with clients, sales meetings, attending conferences and these are the key drivers of economic activity and many of these can’t be done on the end of a Zoom call,” Hill said.

London City airport is currently in the middle of an expansion programme and Hill said the airport was “assessing what that means” in response to demand changes due to the pandemic and the push for net zero.

This summer the government changed the rules on business travel and said foreign business leaders will not need to quarantine when arriving in England if their trip is likely to be of significant economic benefit to the UK.

Company executives wishing to travel to England to make a “financial investment in a UK-based business” or for “establishing a new business within the UK” were granted exemptions but needed written permission first.

However, travel restrictions from major business travel markets like Germany and the US are still hampering the market’s recovery.