30 junio, 2021
15 months into the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be enough time to give us augmented perspectives on the future of travel, in most of its forms and purposes. While the rebound on individual leisure and tour operator business seems eminent, there’s still a high degree of uncertainty with the comeback of business travel, conferences, corporate meetings and incentive travel, as these areas are highly dependent on corporate travel policies, flight availability and lodging capabilities.
Today we are being exposed to travel “gurus” publishing studies, surveys and historic data almost on a daily basis, but I’m confident to say most – if not all – of us are sailing unchartered waters and using data heavily charged with emotions and perceptions that keep changing at fast pace. Despite agreeing the full return of MICE & Corporate travel will take some time, I am a strong believer these will come back much faster than expected by most of us, and here are three reasons why:
At the heart of every corporate decision is the ability of producing superior results during long and consistent periods of time. While the pandemic has leveled corporations’ travel policies and expenditures, it has also benefited those with lesser apetite for mass investments on in-person meetings, sophisticated conferences and elaborate incentive travel programs. The online and “on screen” work required by sanitary rules came in fast and some corporations adapted better than many others to this very new scenario. Although many businesses state they haven’t lost performance nor engagement, it is clear their results also reflect the lack of activity by their competitors and peers, having created what I bluntly call a “tolerance to mediocracy”, a sentiment that if things don’t go 100% as planned this is not anybody’s fault, but Covid’s. This landscape is rapidly changing! Business travel in the USA is coming back steadily and soon other countries will join this renaissance. The reasons are solid and hard to rebuff: client/supplier engagement require trust and bilateral personal understanding; teams’ motivation rely on personal accountability and sense of belonging; in-person attention is paramount to close and manage complex deals. When corporate results start getting measured by “who’s back on the road” against those still heavily focused on online we will experience the rushed comeback of sleepers, all trying to figure out how to regain lost ground.
2) UNIFIED MESSAGING:
We always hear people who don’t like going to concerts saying that same music can be heard anywhere and anytime, while concert goers are heavily driven by the emotion of those live gatherings and the unscripted moments. While both have their say, it’s undeniable the “message” they are getting in their minds is completely different! The same applies to corporate meetings and conferences. While behind a screen everyone gets the same message, people tend to process and pay attention to it in very different ways, whilst in-presence live events insert high doses of adrenalin, serotonin and motivation that cannot be achieved looking at a screen, making the audience feel they are part of something larger and more meaningful. The message is given and its acceptance and impact are both measured in real time! The thrilling comeback of large public gatherings such as the Euro 2021 and MWC (Mobile World Conference, Barcelona) are fueling the organization of countless group encounters from now until the end of 2021 and beyond, proving we humans love the privacy and comfort of our home-offices, but crave the inter-personal exchange of ideas and emotions the world provides.
3) LEARNING & RECOGNITION:
It is widely known humans have an immense learning capability that keeps pushing us upwards. As much as this is true, it is the fact we learn by getting instructed, by example and by doing new things ourselves. Recognition and motivation are also key factors on the constant pursuit of excellence and personal growth, from the moment our parents help us give our first steps. I remember a friend who tirelessly tried to learn playing the guitar with online books and CDs, until he got fed up with his slow progress and decided to get a guitar teacher. His skills, enthusiasm and pleasure with the instrument reached a totally different level and he became an excellent musician, and his performance became strongly tied with the learning method he chose. Leaving the music metaphor we can safely say incentive travel, learning expeditions and recognition trips are vital to superior professional performance and personal development. The time spent away from core daily activities and immersed with our peers, industry colleagues and friends put up the inner flame of pride and joy in each of us to excel. According to SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence), being rewarded a “trip” means more than any other motivational tool available at corporations, and incentive travel is perceived as the ideal chance to get visibility, experiences, knowledge and personal time with top performers. It is clear this category of trips will continue to be the utmost “prize”, now fueled by an uncontrollable desire to see the world again!
I know I might be walking a similar path as the “gurus” I mentioned in the beginning, without their level of scientific knowledge and empiric data, but my gut feeling and the numbers we are starting to gather in many different areas of the travel industry show an unparalleled rebound is building up. I hope we’ll all be ready for it and enjoy a tremendous ride!