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4 key takeaways from our webinar on the current (and future) state of business travel

Jan. 28, 2021
8 min read
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While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had a myriad of impacts on the travel industry, probably the most notable has been on road warriors. With corporate travel budgets still slashed — and some analysts speculating that a full rebound could be years away — these travelers are likely to remain grounded for some time to come (potentially permanently in certain cases).

That said, the last several months have seen some fascinating trends in which business travelers have been hitting the road.

And TPG had a chance to peek behind the curtain at these numbers on our first Future of Travel webinar of 2021.

Read on to learn more about our founder and CEO Brian Kelly's conversation with Ilan Twig, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of TripActions.

What does the data show about business travel?

TripActions serves as a one-stop solution to manage a company's travel policies, booking and expenses — and it works closely with thousands of companies around the world. As a result, it has some interesting data around what has happened to travel since the onset of the global pandemic.

For starters, one notable trend has been how far in advance business travelers are booking. Not surprisingly, it has shrunk from pre-coronavirus levels.

The average lead time for flight bookings through TripActions, for example, was "20 days before departure but is now 10 days," Ilan said during the webinar. He added that the median dropped from 13 days to six days.

It's a similar story for hotels, with the average advanced-booking window falling from 12 to seven days and the median dropping from eight to four.

In other words, half of all pandemic flight bookings through TripActions are happening within six days of departure — and 50% of hotel reservations are booked no more than four days in advance.

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"This indicates the uncertainty around the world," explained Ilan. "What's going to happen two weeks from today? I think that it's primarily driven by when can you travel as opposed to anything else."

It's also interesting to consider where business travel has dropped — and where it's jumped. Not surprisingly, sales-oriented trips plummeted, but trips related to the operations of a business actually went up. These were trips that were essential to a business (and often planned much closer to departure).

Ilan also noted how travel from technology and software companies ground to a near standstill, as it was simpler for many of those organizations to shift to a remote workforce. However, organizations in the healthcare, supply chain and manufacturing, transportation, and storage industries have actually increased their travel during the pandemic — in some cases by a factor of five.

Have business travelers shifted the types of bookings?

Not surprisingly, rental cars have made up a larger share of the overall bookings through TripActions since the start of the pandemic. (Photo by alexfan32/Shutterstock)

TripActions also has some fascinating data around the way that business travelers have been booking trips through its platform — data that (not surprisingly) follows trends we've seen from leisure travelers.

"Flights used to account for roughly 50% of the bookings in the system," Ilan noted, while hotels made up about 30%. "During the pandemic, it completely flipped, so now hotels account for 50% and flights ... 30%."

Even more notable was reservations for rental cars, which have jumped from 7% pre-pandemic to 17%.

"It looks like people are driving more to stay in hotels rather than flying to stay in hotels," Ilan concluded — at least based on bookings through TripActions' systems.

Are business travelers visiting specific destinations?

While the above data points showed clear trends, one area that was all over the map (pun intended) was where these business travelers were going. In short, all over the place.

The data is inconclusive, according to Ilan. "People travel to where they can, [but] reality changes — almost by the week." He used the example of his home country (Israel), which suddenly closed its airport to arriving guests with little notice in the past week.

TripActions, however, has provided resources to help travelers navigate these changes based on real-time data in specific destinations.

"We will show you what's going on there," Ilan said. "We'll show you the trend in cases, the averages, and then the [reproduction rate of the virus] that will help you make a decision."

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Will business travel be different when it does come back?

With a more distributed — and remote — workforce, there may still be opportunities for travel. (Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images.)

As we've covered here at TPG, there are a variety of opinions about when business travel will return and what it will look like. Some airline executives are pessimistic, while others feel like the second half of this year will see a major return of the road warrior.

Ilan fell closer to the side of the optimist — with a few caveats, of course.

"We think that the second half of the year, way more people will feel way more comfortable with travel," he said. "We think that this trend will actually continue throughout the first half of next year."

That said, he was quick to note that this was based on the assumptions that the vaccines would prove effective against new strains of the coronavirus and that there wasn't a new pandemic or some other global event to get in the way of the recovery.

However, he did provide an interesting insight into how travel might look with a workforce that has a notably larger share of remote workers. While many sales calls will likely shift back to in-person meetings, Ilan sees the potential for a new, expanded corporate travel possibility.

"I think we should not confuse distributed remote work with less travel," he said. "I think that a new type of corporate travel — group travel or team travel — will emerge, where once a month, once a quarter, twice per year ... those remote teams will meet." Employees that were based in a physical office pre-pandemic (and were thus less likely to travel) are now remote, so this new destination group meeting might actually lead to more travel.

"I think the future is going to be very interesting," Ilan added. "We definitely are going to double down on this concept of team travel and make it very easy in the system to plan the next group travel."

Watch the full recording

Want to hear more from our conversation? Check out the full recording of the session right here:


“The Future of Travel with Brian Kelly” is a series of live events looking ahead at what’s in store for the travel industry as it begins to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Join Brian as he interviews top experts and company executives on a range of topics, including traveler health, cleanliness measures, loyalty programs and what it all means for the traveling public.

For recordings of past sessions, please visit the following links:

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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740-850
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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023