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What the return of business travel means for travel managers

April 6 / Canada

As many areas of the world are starting to experience COVID-19 recovery, there is a renewed need for business travel. Research conducted in late 2021 by the Institute of Travel Management found that the return to travel is the industry’s biggest priority this year. Employees are eager to collaborate with one another and clients in person, off screens, and in real-time. 

For travel managers, this means balancing pre-pandemic duties with new responsibilities to help ensure the efficiency and well-being of their teams. Here’s how the resurgence of business travel this year is reshaping the travel manager role.

Prioritizing employee safety

A main challenge for travel managers continues to be operating within evolving pandemic restrictions, which vary across countries and cities. It’s important that travel managers keep tabs on changing or easing mandates. They must also stay up to date on other less-considered factors, like political instability, availability of healthcare abroad, and accommodation security. 

Building long-term, lasting travel systems 

In the early and unknown days of the pandemic, travel managers helped implement temporary solutions. Many of these involved completely halted movement, followed by policies that addressed business-critical travel only. 

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, the focus has shifted toward creating more permanent travel policies that address the current climate. A 2022 GBTA survey highlights tactics like temporary increased booking restrictions and assisted bookings, a more robust approvals process, and an interest in adopting more innovative online booking tools.

Adapting to hybrid work and travel flexibility 

The more permanent nature of hybrid work is also changing the landscape of business travel. With employees dispersed among more locations, travel managers may experience an uptick in people needing to move around for their jobs. The boundary between regular commuting and business travel is also blurring, so travel managers may find themselves handling some of those increased costs and requirements.

Within these newer and more customized working arrangements, business travelers are also prioritizing flexibility. This means travel managers must accommodate the desire for more diverse partner offerings, like approved hotels or vacation rentals. According to SAP Concur’s Global Travel Manager Report, many employees also want alternatives to air travel, like car transportation. 

As technology has made working from anywhere easier, more work travelers are combining business and leisure trips as well. According to the Expedia Group’s Traveler Value Index 2022 Outlook, 56% of people who often work remotely will take a bleisure trip. This adds to the logistical complexity for travel managers, especially as it relates to company billing or reimbursement.

Consistently incorporating sustainability 

As sustainability becomes a core tenet of companies everywhere, business travelers are also clamoring for greener modes of travel. In the above-mentioned 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 bringing back business travel or your team is already in flight, learn how Uber for Business can help.