Business Travel Still Matters, and so does Insurance Coverage
Many believe the inability to travel during the pandemic negatively impacted personal job effectiveness.
It wasn’t long after the COVID-19 pandemic began that many people started to think about how workplaces and business travel would be forever transformed. Now, with the rollout of highly effective vaccines and economies around the world beginning to stir, we are about to find out what the future holds.
As companies make decisions about returning to offices, travel budgets, and the new criteria for traveling to meet with clients, develop business or attend conferences, it’s instructive to understand the perceptions of a category of business people who have critical roles in management and business development: business travelers. Their experiences during the pandemic and expectations for post-pandemic life can help answer the question: what is the opportunity cost of staying at your desk versus traveling to meet in person?
The answer, found in a global survey of business travelers commissioned by Chubb, is striking: by a wide margin, those surveyed found that the inability to travel during the pandemic had a big and negative impact on personal job effectiveness. At the same time, business travelers say the pandemic has negatively impacted the ability of their company to develop business, serve clients and maintain business relationships. Another key finding: screens cannot replace the value of in-person meetings as the best way to do business.
On the road again?
The survey of 2,100 respondents conducted by the respected market research firm Dynata is the first of its kind to gauge the views of business travelers in the United States, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. Notably, business travelers around the world are of like mind regarding the impact of COVID-19 on work and travel. We found little difference in responses across age, income, frequency of travel or geographic region.
Here are some of the key findings.
Business travelers are eager to get back on the road. Globally, 84% of business travelers say they cannot wait to travel again. Four out of five say they have personally missed business travel. An even larger share — 87% — say they miss leisure travel.
Overall job effectiveness has suffered from the pandemic and inability to travel. Nearly three out of four business travelers say they are less effective in their job due to the pandemic and severely limited travel opportunities. Areas that have been negatively impacted include client service and the ability to maintain relationships with clients and business partners. Around the world, 80% or more of business travelers believe they are missing something important when they cannot see body language or other visual clues that you can only get in an in-person meeting.
By clear margins, business travelers believe the pandemic has negatively impacted the ability of their company to develop business, serve clients and maintain business relationships. Nearly three out of four (74%) say that client and business partner relationships have suffered due to the pandemic. Similarly, large percentages say the pandemic has made their company less effective in serving clients and impaired their ability to perform due diligence on new business partners, vendors or suppliers. These views were held broadly by business travelers globally, with little difference in responses across age, income, frequency of travel or geographic region.
Meeting in person matters. Respondents acknowledge that meeting virtually can be an effective alternative to sitting down together. But a large majority (82%) believe that something important is missing when you cannot read the body language or other visual clues that can only be had in a face-to-face meeting. Clear majorities of business travelers see other negative impacts of not meeting in person, including fewer opportunities to network (79%), an inability to get to know colleagues who work in other locations (79%), and more barriers to effective sales and business development (75%).
Travel concerns persist
Apprehension remains. Despite an eagerness to return to business travel, there’s apprehension about the risks of getting back on the road during the pandemic. Nearly nine in 10 (87%) are personally concerned about contracting COVID-19. A similar share (90%) want to understand safety protocols at a hotel before staying there. Three out of four say they are willing to pay more for an airline ticket to keep the middle seat open. And 88% are concerned that other travelers who don’t follow pandemic protocols are putting them at risk.
Heightened attention to travel insurance. The pandemic spurred business travelers to be more mindful about travel insurance coverage. More than four out of five business travelers (81%) said the pandemic will make them pay more attention to what travel insurance coverage they have before taking a trip. Business travelers also broadly agree (86%) that having travel insurance makes them more comfortable when traveling for business or leisure. Some 72% of respondents are more likely to purchase travel insurance due to the pandemic. More than two-thirds (68%) would be more likely to buy travel insurance if it included COVID/pandemic coverage. Many respondents (66%) won’t travel unless they understand how to access quality care.
Employer duty of care. Eager, albeit anxious, about the prospect of a return to business travel, employees trust that their companies have their backs. Nearly eight in 10 business travelers (79%) say their company or organization will take care of them if they get sick while traveling for business, a finding that underscores the importance of employer duty of care obligations.
Most business travelers express high levels of trust in airlines. Some 85% say airlines are doing everything they can to keep travel safe. Nearly as many (77%) say travel by plane during the pandemic is safe if passengers adhere to safety protocols, including wearing a mask. Among all forms of business travel, the comfort level with flying was highest at 57%, beating out staying at hotels, riding in a taxi, renting a car and taking mass transit. Still, one in five (20%) is not comfortable with any of these aspects of travel during the pandemic.
As travelers return to the skies, businesses should keep lines of communication open at all times, letting employees on the road know that they are constantly monitoring the global landscape and that they haven’t been left alone to deal with any unexpected events. If they do end up in a situation where they’re put in quarantine or lock down, they want to know what will happen, who they have to call, and how they can be supported in terms of events like repatriation or evacuation. To fully support global business travelers who can’t wait to get back on the road, best-In-class business travel medical coverage has never been more crucial.