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ADMIN 2021. 10. 25.  
   제목: This Could Have Been a Zoom Meeting: Companies Rethink Travel

This Could Have Been a Zoom Meeting: Companies Rethink Travel

Before business travel fully takes off again, some companies are taking steps to rein it in.

By Kevin J. Delaney

Aug. 1, 2021

David Calhoun, chief executive of Boeing, has access to company aircraft as part of his job. Even so, he told an interviewer that he didn뭪 expect to fly nearly as much for internal company meetings after the pandemic.

Mr. Calhoun, like some of his peers, found that video calls were remarkably effective for checking in with colleagues, allowing him to pack in more meetings and schedule them with minimal advance notice, according to an account in 밚eading at a Distance, a recent book by James M. Citrin and Darleen DeRosa.

밒 will do as much or more customer travel, because that뭩 still the most important way to build relationships, Mr. Calhoun told the authors. 밄ut most travel when leading big companies is visiting your own teams. I won뭪 be doing that nearly as much.

There뭩 broad consensus that how often we fly for work and what we travel for will shift significantly post-pandemic. Who is traveling may be different as well. That, in turn, will prompt changes in what the travel industry provides to business people, a source of nearly a third of its revenue before the pandemic.

A year and a half of forgoing virtually all travel and doing business by video conference has led many business people to conclude that a lot of their previous travel wasn뭪 worth the time and toll on their bodies and mental state, on their families and the environment. That뭩 even before considering the role that travel played in transmitting the virus across continents.

There뭩 a popular meme: 밫his meeting could have been an email. Those of us who have traveled long distances for a single work meeting know that we could often just as easily say, 밫his business trip could have been a Zoom call.

And before travel fully takes off again, some organizations and individuals are taking steps to rein it in. Adding significantly to the pressure are commitments that many companies are making to trim their emissions goals that often involve slashing the carbon footprint of employees business travel.

One scenario is what Mr. Calhoun suggested: Companies could dramatically reduce whole categories of travel, such as in-person meetings with internal colleagues in other cities. A Wall Street Journal analysis last year, for example, estimated that intra-company meetings and training represented 20 percent of all business travel and predicted that 40 to 60 percent of that would go away permanently. The Journal concluded that 19 to 36 percent of business trips would disappear. Bill Gates predicted at DealBook뭩 conference last fall that business travel would still be more than 50 percent lower once things normalized.

In contrast with domestic leisure travel, which has largely recovered, business travel has been relatively slow in coming back. Just 9 percent of companies say they뭭e resumed their pre-pandemic travel levels, according to a recent survey by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines both recently said that business travel remains about 60 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels, despite an increase in recent months. Rising coronavirus cases in recent weeks could delay the recovery of business travel further.

But Mr. Calhoun뭩 plan to reduce his own internal travel echoes the results of the accountants association뭩 survey, which found that two-thirds of companies were allowing travel for sales or client meetings, with fewer permitting travel for internal purposes or training programs.

The rebound

Early indications suggest that most businesses will be reluctant to dramatically trim the estimated two-thirds of business travel that involves sales calls and client visits, conferences and professional services like consulting. Executives remain wary of losing out to a rival who actually shows up in person, or seeing an important contract go away because of poor virtual communications. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, said in May that clients told him his bank lost business when 밷ankers from the other guys visited, and ours didn뭪.

Scott Kirby, chief executive of United, earlier this year predicted 밼ull recovery in business demand because business travel is about relationships. Speaking with investors via a conference call, he added, 밳ou cannot build human relationships through a medium like this.

Excerpts articles from The New York Times

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