Should we embrace change and accept that this is the end for business travel?
Alethea Warrington, campaigner at climate charity Possible, says YES.
The rise of virtual meetings hasn’t just given us an entire subculture of Zoom memes — it has made travelling long distances to attend meetings in person outdated and ridiculous.
The pandemic underlined something most of us have known for a while: getting on a plane for a meeting is a waste of time, money, and carbon emissions.
Coronavirus has made it even clearer that we need urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. As more communities around the world suffer from the fires, floods and droughts of a warming climate, it’s no surprise that people are balking at the idea of doing something as climate-crashing as getting on a plane if they can possibly avoid it.
With even the aviation industry acknowledging that business travel will never go back to pre-Covid levels, it’s time to embrace the new normal of only having to wear business clothes from the waist up. The end of the line for business travel is a win for businesses, their employees, and the climate.
Darryl McGarvey, director of travel partnerships at SAP Concur, says NO.
Business travel leads to the transportation of ideas — and good ideas are the lifeblood of any functioning economy.
When business travel is used efficiently, it can help organisations to build relationships and sign deals that help to keep the economy moving. Recent research from Harvard Growth Lab actually finds a direct link between a country’s incoming business travel and the growth of new and existing industries.
Our own research, meanwhile, found that 91 per cent of business travellers expect their organisation to experience negative outcomes as a result of restricted travel, with reduced deals being their main concern. At a time where businesses need to be closing deals to survive, this is simply unsustainable.
Technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams may have provided a good stopgap during lockdown, particularly for internal meetings, but these cannot be used forever. In-person interactions spark ideas that cannot be formulated through a computer screen.
Business travel must return if we are to rebuild the British economy in a post-pandemic world.
Main image credit: Getty