Video calls will not replace business trips
During ITB Berlin a debate was held on this topic with the participation of executives from Saber and Comtravo GmbH
Innovative technologies will change business travel management, yet personal contacts remain important
Nothing can replace a business trip, because a Zoom session does not build trust. When a competitor visits the customer is when, at the latest, each company has to react by meeting in person. On that basic point, there was general agreement in this debate about the future of business travel. Regardless, the business world is likely to change, not just because of the pandemic, but as a result of new technologies and the debate around sustainability.
At the beginning of the discussion, Andy Finkelstein, Sabre's senior vice president of Global Agency Sales and Corporate Solutions, was able to convey some optimism about the future of business travel. "We are firmly convinced that business travel will return." The signs were already pointing in that direction in 2021. In recent weeks, the volume of business had already reached almost half of the same period in 2019. “That is not surprising, because there is nothing better than a face-to-face meeting for build trust. Finkelstein said.
However, the nature of business travel was changing, for example, with travelers combining business and private affairs, or where sustainability played an important role in corporate travel planning and decisions. The pandemic had also shown how important good service was. “A lot of people had become insecure. Being able to handle disturbances and interruptions professionally is crucial.” That was where technology could play an important role, of that Finkelstein was convinced.
Jannik Wässa, Managing Director of Comtravo GmbH, commented that technological solutions would not be enough. “We believe that it is necessary to combine two things. Innovative technology is needed, as well as personal contacts.” One approach here could be to use technology to relieve pressure on agents and then bring them in when needed.
One of the biggest technology trends is targeting customers directly in a personalized way. This was difficult on a business trip, because there were several actors involved: the traveler himself, the company, and usually a travel manager. "We need to think of new products for travel managers and use our tools and knowledge to manage the enormous volume of data we evaluate to support travel managers," said Tristan Smith, vice president of business for Egencia.