Belfast Telegraph

Future of Business Travel

Aine Moyne
Aine Moyne
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In the past months, we have witnessed the slow return of travel as restrictions lifted. The startling images of airport queues during summer signalled a return to normality, but this was primarily driven by leisure travellers. The return of business travel has been at a much slower pace.

Advancements in technology have reduced the need for business travel. Many telecommunications applications adapted quickly and introduced new features to allow colleagues to work together more seamlessly from different locations. 

With these advancements, organisations have been able to work with new clients or bid on projects they may not have previously considered due to location. In addition, when people began to work remotely, it offered the option to be more collaborative with people outside their own office, city and even country, as the advantage of sitting beside someone was no longer a factor.

Organisations are also trying to be more sustainable. Many are creating environmental policies, while others are going further and adopting a process for embedding climate change risk and opportunities into their corporate decision-making. This includes the prevention of pollution and the minimisation of their environmental impacts through their services and operations.

Business travel is a factor in these policies as many are looking to move to video conferencing instead of meeting rooms and suggesting rail transport, where available, over road as it has lower emissions per mile. For island dwellers, flying is often the most efficient way to get to a destination, whether for meetings in London or further afield.

Organisations are looking into the cost of this efficiency, with environmental factors a consideration, alongside monetary factors. For example, a return flight from Belfast to London emits around 0.3 tonnes of CO2 - equivalent to 47 days of the estimated carbon dioxide emissions budget for one person, based on the Paris Agreement objective of limiting global heating to 1.5°C.

Businesses are moving towards more purposeful travel. Businesses are increasingly challenging themselves on whether a video call could work instead of a trip to the client or supplier.

There will always be scenarios where travelling to the location is more suited, for example, inspecting a building before buying it, engaging with clients when signing a large contract, or even interviewing people in their natural environments. In addition, travel allows collaboration, relationship building, and creating cultural opportunities that add value. Of course, business trips have the benefit of allowing people to get out of the office and see new places, but the opportunity should always outweigh the cost.