ECM Roundtables: Does Business Travel Have a Future?

‍During this panel, organised in collaboration with ECM, we were joined by 3 panellists across Europe.

Barbara Jamison from London Tourist Board, Jurgen Moors from Maastricht Tourist Board and Pier Paolo Mariotti from Eurac Research discussed whether business travel has a future. They also presented the audience with some trends in travel.

During this panel, organised in collaboration with ECM, we were joined by 3 panellists across Europe. Barbara Jamison from London Tourist Board, Jurgen Moors from Maastricht Tourist Board and Pier Paolo Mariotti from Eurac Research discussed whether business travel has a future. They also presented the audience with some trends in travel.

The panellists began by sharing their perspectives on how they perceive business travel and how their organisations work with it. There was a shared consensus on the fact that business travel has been combined with leisure tourism in recent years. Although it was something widely spread in the United States, it seems that Europeans’ interest in this type of travel has kept growing lately. This travel modality is widely known as ‘bleisure’.

Pier expressed his disagreement on the fact that business travel will be more uncertain than leisure travel in the future. Jurgen, also supported this statement by reflecting on the importance of business travel. Nonetheless, the panellists did highlight the fact that business travel does react slower to restriction changes in pandemic times, while leisure travel seems to recover faster due to people wanting to get out and being able to make decisions quicker and more independently than businesses.

When looking at the forecasted data for 6 months time from now, Barabara mentioned that in London, they are expecting business travel to decrease in the city, and some of their concerns are that companies might come to the realisation that they can do business & meeting online, leaving a chance for business travel to diminish. However, there were disagreeing perspectives on this idea. For example, Jurgen said they had observed a general feeling of tiredness amongst people regarding online interactions. There is a growing desire for reconnecting in person and getting back on the ‘road’.

The panel referred to staycation and domestic travel as two very big trends for the past two years. It was pointed out the Covid-19 impact had a significant impact on increasing demand for the two.

Also, as a consequence of the pandemic, the panellists made reference to the fact that hybrid events might be here to stay due to the uncertainty that we are experiencing nowadays and the difference in restrictions between the different European countries.

Looking into future trends, ethics in travel seems to play a big role. Barbara mentioned that travellers are now more discerning about where they go. In addition, travellers are increasingly driven by sustainability and consciousness. Jurgen added to this by commenting on the fact that travellers think of the ecological footprints more and more. As such, travellers make decisions by evaluating the necessity to travel.

The panel expressed their agreement that digital innovations should improve and customise experiences and not solely be viewed as a means to cut costs. They also added that considering the changes in people’s lifestyles, a hybrid model of virtual and in-person events would be required to allow businesses to continue working. Although, to successfully achieve this, the ways that people adapt to hybrid lifestyle and engagement in gamified environments have to acknowledged.

Key Takeaways

1. Similar to leisure travel, business travel has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. The trends in business travel and consumer behaviour have evolved as we experience restrictions and modifications due to the pandemic.

2. Travel and tourism sectors have been influenced by the reduced number of business travels and a shift in travellers’ mindset to measure the necessity of travelling and to be more sustainable.

3. Hybrid models with virtual and in-person events can balance businesses needs, travel and related notions. However, it needs considerations to ensure digital innovations enhance experiences.

Published on:
December 2021
About the contributor

Barbara Jamison

Barbara is responsible for European business tourism sales and strategy. She has extensive experience within all sectors of inbound tourism to London. She has lived and worked in France and Germany and is fluent in both languages.

Jurgen Moors

Moors has finished his bachelor and master degrees European Studies at Maastricht University and recently studied business administration at the UHasselt, Belgium. Previous employers were, among others, Berlitz International in Brussels and the Chamber of Commerce.

Pier Paolo Mariotti

Born in the heart of the Alps. Graduated in Economics and business administration @ Università degli Studi di Verona. Worked as photojournalist and travelled extensively in South East Asia for several European and Asian publishers. Speaks fluently Italian, German, English and basic French and Chinese.