Life in general has been far from normal. For businesses, COVID-19 has forced new restrictions and new limitations on many aspects of the business world. One aspect being travel. While vacation travel slowly becomes more common again, there still remains a sharp decrease in business travelers. Deloitte recently reported that travel spend in Q2 2019, compared to Q2 2012, only 1 in 5 large businesses report even reaching 25% of their prior travel budget. Experts expect that business travel may not rebound to pre-Covid levels until late 2023.
Part of the reason is fear. Fear of travelers and fear of their employers. Part of the reason is simply international travel restrictions, quarantine rules, vaccination requirements, etc. Regardless of your desire, depending on your international destination, expect to face a myriad of different and often changing regulations that restrict your ability to travel abroad.
Although few door, frame and hardware organizations ever leave the country for meetings, the restrictions on business travel can affect their vendors, partners, and customers.
Deloitte Insights reported that U.S. based companies reduced travel budgets by 90% in 2020. From quarterly reports, they also found that as of Q2 2021, less than 1 in 5 companies had reached even 24% of their 2019 quarterly spend. By Q4 2022, nearly half say they do not expect to reach 2019 spend levels, but nearly 9 in 10 expect to reach 75% or higher.
The Washington Post recently published that many businesses have decided to not travel any employees to situations where they could get sick or affect business operations. In addition, due to companies still operating remotely with closed offices, travel becomes more problematic to simply find suitable, safe, places for people to meet. While door, frame, and hardware distributors are not multi-billion dollar software technology companies like Apple or Google, small family operated door distributors do face similar problems as the tech giants. As the nations around the world each face different Covid situations and regulations, the ability to face to face meeting with their United States customers and partners seem uncertain for quite some time.
Where does this leave business travel? First, expect continued restrictions through 2022 on the ability to travel. Second, expect continued unwillingness of employees and employers to book travel due to health risks. Third, businesses have realized large cost savings via reduced travel with less than feared loss of business. Career long “road warriors” reluctantly admit they have been able to continue conducting business over video call. Lack of travel has not destroyed their business.
At the moment, the pendulum has swung to the “no travel” end of it’s arc. But inevitably, the pendulum will swing back. As health risk concerns decline, companies will give into competitive pressure to better serve customers, foster relationships and get back to face to face. It might take a couple more years of steady return but rest assured, the pendulum always, eventually, swings the other direction.
Ian Oxman, Co-Owner, Software for Hardware LLC, based in Atlanta, GA. You can reach Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org