Outgoing Emirates President Sir Tim Clark is not worried about business travel bouncing back. In fact, he believes that there will be more opportunity and desire for business travel than ever before in the years ahead. Is he on to something or just dreaming?
Emirates President: Business Travel Will Grow
Asked about the future of business travel on CNN, Clark bristled at the suggestion that a new normal of 25-30% lower would be a best-case scenario:
“No, I would say the converse. What has happened as a result of being locked down, as a result of having to engage in (online communication) networks, whether it be Zoom or (Microsoft) Teams, I saw it in the mid ’90s, when we digitized the global economy and all these tools came to market. The digital world ruled, the age of information came along, and everybody said, ‘You know what’s going to happen? We’re not really going to travel anymore.’
“The converse happened. Between 1995, and 2015 to 2018, the demand for business travel grew exponentially. The more they (people) interacted, the more they traveled. As we get back to normal, as the economy is strengthened, as cash starts flowing back into the businesses that have been affected, we’ll start to see business travel bounce back, and we’ll see it grow. It will not slow down.”
That’s a very optimistic take. While I certainly hope Clark is correct and personally plan all sorts of travel when borders re-open, our corporate clients at Award Expert paint another picture. Most tell me that business travel is still strictly banned and there are absolutely no plans to change that in 2021. There are exceptions…like Apple…but the “road warrior” has been grounded and that doesn’t look like it will change.
Surveys suggest business travel will return for sales and securing clients, but customer support and research trips may never recover thanks to improving technology. Perhaps, if anything, this year has taught us the smartest bet is not to bet on anything.
There’s a part of me that understands humans are creatures which require personal interaction. I’m always reminded of this tremendous ad from United Airlines:
But even though business travel will recover, I don’t see it eclipsing 2019 levels for many years to come.
(H/T: View from the Wing)