The Covid-19 pandemic has and continues to affect every sector across India in one way or the other creating newer opportunities and making corporates rethink & re-evaluate their business strategies and policies. During the beginning of the pandemic, both employees and employers learnt to work remotely within no time, reducing the need for business travel. Many business leaders in India believe that business travel is essential for carrying out operations in full swing. However, with the ease in domestic and international travel restrictions in India, corporates need to focus on health, safety, and other Covid -19 protocols that will have to be worked into the expense management process as a priority.
A Qualtrics and SAP Concur study found that seven in 10 business travellers (70 per cent) expect to go back to traveling as much as they did before the pandemic. Separate research shows that nearly 90 per cent plan to add personal vacation time to their business trips once they resume travelling for work. With business travel returning and employees eager to reconnect, we’ll see this trend permeate the workplace.
The pandemic has offered a unique opportunity to rethink prevailing business and travel models to make them sustainable and future-ready. As we reflect on 2021 trends, here are some perspectives and predictions for the coming year and how businesses can prepare for emerging opportunities across sectors.
- Cautious resumption of business travel: Despite the ‘success’ companies experienced through a year of ‘essential-only’ travel, business leaders realise the value of face-to-face interactions. In India, business travel is returning gradually. In 2022, more companies will put in place clear policies for disruption and changes, including communication platforms that keep travellers informed and protected.
- Sustainable travel takes off: In 2021, record-breaking climate disasters have underscored the need for more sustainable travel as we embrace a new era of work. We’re amid a fundamental shift in how businesses respond to climate change. In line with the rest of the world, the bar is getting higher for Indian organisations to build sustainability initiatives into their organisational framework and corporate travel programmes. Globally businesses are under increasing scrutiny for misreporting carbon emissions or “green-washing” their sustainability metrics, which is exacerbated by non-standardised carbon footprint calculators and disparate sustainability reporting criteria. We expect this to happen in India as well in the near future as the country is trying to manage the menace of environmental adversities. In 2022, more businesses will walk down an eco-conscious path and adopt technologies that enable responsible travel.
- Better on-the-road protection for employees: Recent SAP Concur research has found that while business travellers are eager to get back on the road for work, they have new expectations for flexibility, health and safety protocols, and wellness and mental health initiatives. To appease the 16 per cent of business travellers who will leave their current positions over their preferences not being met, there is an expectation for more firms in 2022 to re-evaluate and tailor their travel policies with employee needs in mind. Trust, transparency and a fair duty-of-care compact between organisations and their staff will help raise employee satisfaction and retention.
- Increase in bleisure travel: As travel rebounds and corporate travel programs restart, companies will refresh travel policies to create and encourage more flexibility, including opportunities for bleisure travel, providing business travellers a chance to add personal time onto their business trips or work from a vacation home/destination. Carving out additional time for rest and relaxation or a chance to explore local areas also will help relieve the tension and stress of business travellers’ usual routine. In 2022, employees will look to tack on their bucket list trip to their business trip to take advantage of the time away from home.
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