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With the majority of associations spread across the country in cities like Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York, business travel was just a part of life. Work trips were all but required and many association professionals spent some time in the year attending conferences or workshops in various cities.

The travel restrictions implemented after COVID-19 had a tremendous impact on the association industry as many of the large industry conferences had to be canceled, and those who were required to travel for work could no longer do so. Normal business functions that required travel needed to be restructured and after a while, working remotely began to feel like normal. 

The Surprising Benefits of Limited Travel

As organizations and associations became accustomed to working remotely, it was no longer necessary to send workers to various locations or conferences when the majority of work could successfully be done from the office or home. With post-pandemic plans being put into action, many organizations are wondering if it’s time to return to the old ways of working or continue with what they’ve become accustomed to.

Professional services network, Deloitte, conducted a study of 150 executives with various titles and travel budget oversight, and found that “most US-based companies’ travel budgets declined by 90% or more.”

They also found that some companies are learning from their restrictions during the pandemic and are sticking to a lower amount of travel as a way to increase sustainability. Curbing travel-related emissions by limiting trip frequency, reducing international or long-distance travel, and by transitioning more internal meetings online, reinforcing organizational culture.

How Business Travel Budgets Were Impacted

When it comes to COVID’s impact on travel and associations, money has been a bigger factor. Many organizations have not returned to pre-pandemic budgets - and don’t plan to.

Recently, software company Bloomberg conducted a survey of 45 large businesses in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, finding that 84% of respondents planned to spend less on travel post-pandemic. Through the pandemic restrictions put into place over a year and a half ago, many organizations have learned how to reduce their expenses and work more efficiently.

One such company was Michelin, who implemented virtual drone visits as a replacement for factory visits and training. Bloomberg shared that Michelin CEO Florent Menegaux said “We will continue to travel because human bonds are absolutely necessary to our activity, but we will most certainly have an overall reduction of about 20% to 30% in our travel costs.”

Looking Beyond 2021

The Global Business Travel Association released GBTA BTI Outlook Annual Global Report & Forecast, a detailed analysis of business travel in 2020, offering projections for 2021 and beyond.

Dave Hilfman, interim executive director of GBTA, shared that while “the pandemic has been devastating for business travel and it’s clear our industry will take some time to recover given the challenges we’re facing on multiple fronts,” GBTA does expect a full recovery to business travel by 2025.

So, whether your organization continues to cut back on business travel in the future or tries to return to a robust travel schedule, it is clear that learning from the changes caused by the pandemic is going to allow organizations to be more strategic, effective, and selective about their business travel going forward.

Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
September 22, 2021
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.