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What the return of business travel means for travel managers

July 29 / US

After a nearly overnight shutdown, the travel industry was halted indefinitely due to the pandemic. As team offsites, sales meetings, and events went virtual, the role of the travel manager became uncertain. 

But as many areas of the world are starting to experience recovery, the need for business travel is rising again. In addition to pre-pandemic responsibilities, travel managers are now tasked with new duties to help ensure the well-being of employees as they get back on the road.

Accommodations for safety and security

A main challenge for current travel managers is operating within evolving pandemic restrictions. COVID-19 conditions and vaccination rates vary across countries and cities, so travel managers must keep tabs on developing mandates. 

This travel vendor health and safety guide provides insight into COVID-related property reviews, while this regional database keeps track of border restrictions. This site tracking US state policies provides updated mask requirements by location. Although we always recommend following CDC guidance, resources like these can also help travel managers make informed decisions before booking to help ensure employee well-being.

Company limitations of business travel

Personnel and budget changes were among many pandemic-related disruptions to business travel. In fact, 50% of travel managers surveyed by Business Travel News said their teams had experienced layoffs or furloughs, with those remaining often taking on more responsibilities or different roles. 

Travel managers now face a renewed need for business travel even though budgets might not have recovered yet. The industry is on the upswing, but many companies are still dealing with constrained human or monetary resources. McKinsey also reported that some companies may even permanently downsize corporate travel budgets as the virtual work trend remains.

The changing needs of the business traveler

Travel managers must also accommodate the dynamic requirements of today’s business travelers. According to SAP Concur’s Global Travel Manager Report, many employees want alternatives to air travel, like car transportation, as well as non-traditional accommodations. They’re also prioritizing flexibility, meaning travel managers must account for a higher likelihood of changed or canceled plans. 

Sustainability has also become increasingly important to business travelers. In the same SAP report, 63% of survey participants said they expect to make environmentally friendly decisions when traveling, such as taking shorter-distance trips or avoiding layovers. This may affect the travel manager’s process when it comes to prioritizing vendors or locations.

Whether you’re just beginning to think about business travel or your team is already in-flight, learn how Uber for Business can help.