Business travel during the pandemic has decreased significantly as companies deployed technology and other solutions to avoid travel to the US and other countries.

A new report from Bloomberg found that several large companies have no plans to revert to old business travel plans. This is due to significant cost savings in using Zoom and other video services instead of paying for workers to fly around.

Bloomberg’s survey of 45 large companies in the US, Europe and Asia shows that 84 percent plan to spend less on travel after the pandemic.

This could be bad news for San Diego, which relies on major tourism-dollar industry conventions. Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith told Bloomberg that he was less convinced that business travel was successful: “I hear many of our corporate customers say the day they lose an account because they don’t face it That will immediately bring you back to the way the operation was before. “

Q: Will business travel return to pre-pandemic levels?

Kelly Cunningham, San Diego Institute for Economic Research

NO: Technologies are always changing business operations, efficiency and productivity. The simplicity and effectiveness of virtual software has been greatly accelerated as organizations are able to conduct remote interactions during the pandemic shutdown. Sophisticated communication functions enabled companies to efficiently use their time and financial resources to continue their work, develop products and sign contracts without traveling. At the very least, post-pandemic business travel must justify not being taken online. Business travel will undoubtedly continue but not return to pre-pandemic levels.

Phil Blair, manpower

NO: Sometimes it takes a shock to the system, like a pandemic, to make changes in the way we do business. The norm has changed in the last 18 months. Customers have not missed visits from sales reps, both local and national, and sales and service reps have recognized that there is no productive benefit for either customer or service staff in traveling long days with little more than “checking in” with customers or face-to-face with “I want your business.” And the number of CEOs who have seen the millions of dollars they can save annually by restricting travel is growing. Thanks Zoom, GoToMeeting etc. You’re here to stay.

Gary London, London Moeder consultant

NO: Expect a mild return to business trips and conferences / conventions. But not at the pre-pandemic level. Businesses, employees, and customers have mostly got used to virtual meetings, and while often not perfect or desired, it is much easier and cheaper to meet and communicate this way. Technologies are also emerging to enhance the virtual experience. Even so, I think it’s time to ditch those shorts and t-shirts and upgrade your wardrobe!

Alan Gin, University of San Diego

NO: There will be some business trips, but not at pre-pandemic levels. Companies have found that virtual meetings can save them a lot of money. There will be some face-to-face meetings, but they will be reserved for the most important situations. Travel and office space are the two areas where businesses have been able to cut costs significantly, and many will try to keep those savings going into the future. This is bad for the San Diego economy, which has a history of sizable meeting and convention business.

Bob Rauch, RA Rauch & staff

JA: There are many reasons why business travel isn’t returning quickly. The pandemic, technologies that enable productive meetings over computers and save money are just some of the reasons. But there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face for conferences and business deals. Within three years, 80 to 90 percent of business trips prior to the pandemic will have returned. Take a few secluded leisure trips and we’ll be home. In 1981, video conferencing was supposed to replace business trips. For real?

Austin Neudecker, Weave Growth

JA: While the pandemic has certainly accelerated the trend towards remote meetings, I expect business travel to return in the long run. Reaching the pre-COVID values ​​can take years because there is a risk of new variants, different vaccination rates and latent fear of exposure. But ultimately, in our increasingly connected world, meetings are a necessity. Even if the percentage of face-to-face meetings drops, the sheer volume of important meetings is doomed to keep many of us aloft.

Reginald Jones, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation

Do not attend this week.

James Hamilton, UC San Diego

NO: At least not for a while. New variants of COVID keep popping up, and the protection afforded by the vaccines does not last as long as originally hoped. As we have been forced to find alternatives to doing business in person, some of the new approaches will remain after the threat of disease has been overcome. Video meetings are less effective, but cheaper, more convenient, and more environmentally friendly.

Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health

NO: Business travel will not return to pre-pandemic levels immediately. I believe that many companies have discovered great efficiencies with Teams, Zoom, and other telemeting / conferencing tools and will continue to use the technologies for greater efficiency and lower costs. However, once COVID is under control, travel will become safer and a new normal will set in, people will want to travel again and attend face-to-face meetings in beautiful places.

Norm Miller, University of San Diego

NO: As a board member of national organizations, I know that in the future many meetings will be hybrid, as we have now gained experience in how to include more distant people in a meeting. While we travel less, we can also attend more meetings, some in person, some remotely. One downside is the lack of socializing and casual discussion, but for people who already know each other well, traveling a little less or attending more meetings isn’t all bad.

Jamie Moraga, IntelliSolutions

JA: But it will take a while. Businesses are likely to remain virtual in the short term due to new virus varieties and uncertainty about vaccine effectiveness. The pandemic has also taught companies to make better use of current and emerging technology to connect virtually and achieve cost savings from unnecessary travel and spending. Business travel is likely to be more targeted with a certain return on investment. After the pandemic, the pendulum will eventually return to pre-pandemic levels.

David Ely, San Diego State University

NO: The benefits of face-to-face interactions will result in a partial recovery from business travel. However, many organizations have been trained to hold virtual meetings and attend conferences during the pandemic. To reduce travel costs and use employee time more effectively, these companies will continue to use technology to communicate and avoid travel when not strictly necessary. Also, some companies will take steps to reduce their employees’ travel activities in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

Ray Major, SANDAG

NO: Not in the foreseeable future. The liability a company may face requires an employee to travel until COVID is under control, and the costs associated with business travel will deter companies from returning to pre-pandemic travel levels. Around half of business travel is a necessity, and those trips will resume as the COVID subsides. With the successful introduction of technologies like Zoom, half of the trips are discretionary trips and can easily be replaced.

Lynn Reaser, Point Loma Nazarene University

NO: While technology has enabled more effective virtual connections, the pandemic has led companies to weigh more carefully the costs of business travel and its benefits. In addition to spending dollars on travel, companies are now paying more attention to the health and wellbeing of employees, while climate goals push companies to reduce their carbon footprint. Only face-to-face meetings with customers and employees with great impact will take place, while virtual meetings will replace some or many face-to-face meetings during the year.

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