From Bill Gates to Amex CEO Stephen Squeri, thought leaders around the world are already mourning business travel. For airlines and hotels which thrived on corporate contracts, some worth more than $150 million a year, a massive void has been left behind.
Will business travel ever recover fully? It’s unlikely, but another “new normal” caused by covid-19 may fill at least a part of that void, thanks to less encumbering work conditions. Work from home and remote work could save the travel industry, and many of the most ‘at risk’ local economies with it.
Why? Because your boss doesn’t realistically care where you’re working from, just that the work is getting done, meetings are being attended and productivity remains.
Offices – remember those things? Costly, frustrating to get to, and after months of successful work from home – also now proving to be entirely unecessary for many businesses. Everyone knows the struggle of vacation days, but if offices are going by the wayside and more people find themselves collaborating remotely, a new, more sustainable form of travel could likely emerge.
It may even shift the landscape of destination popularity. Micro trips are dead, but longer trips to places you can work, live and immerse yourself in are there for the taking. Well, soon.
Find somewhere cheap to live, work from anywhere, leave any time, just get the job done. Travel doesn’t need to mean days by the beach, it can just mean working from somwhere you wouldn’t typically call home, and exploring the town, beach or mountains after hours, and on weekends.
This digital nomad lifestyle was already on the rise before a freak virus wreaked havoc on the world, but people who don’t consider themselves digital, or nomads now have a greater chance to partake.
The greatest pleasures in travel have always been the deeper experiences, such as finding where you’d fit in – in any given city, society or destination. It’s hard to do that in a week, during peak holiday travel times smushed in between tourists. But in a month abroad, where you work from home, or evne from the beach, meet locals and learn the ways of the land, you stand a fair chance.
That dream may sound farfetched in high priced cities like London, or San Francisco, but in emerging regions of the world, like Southeast Asia, India, South America, South Africa, or Eastern Europe where an entire months rent can fetch $500 for a stunning place, it’s not difficult to imagine actually saving money by traveling.
Sure, this will always skew to those without major built in monthly expenses, like cars, or homes in the country, but for the chance to explore the world, it’s hard to pass up, and during summer months, even established families could dig their toes in to a more nomadic way of life.
Whether it’s just two weeks here or there, a month here a month there, or one long extended trip maxing out a six month tourist visa, the possibilities are endless.
Anyone willing to list their own place on Airbnb or another sharing economy platform could really even come out ahead on their remote work travels, particularly for points obsessed travelers who get their flights taken care of with credit card points and airline miles. Increasing numbers of millennials and Gen Z travelers had already ditched “things” like cars, so there’s real merit.
This style of travel could represent an important resurgence in consumer travel, and a new form of business travel, where offsites, and meetups become the new meeting. Bali sounds like a lot more fun than Baltimore, and the office space is definitely going to be cheaper, since there isn’t any.
The concept also fits in broadly with other travel trends predicted to surface, as the great reboot begins.
People will generally take fewer trips, and will care more about extracting better value from them. Spending a month in a relatively inexpensive country, and finding a more local form of lodging, rather than Western priced hotels, will create a new market.
The entire month will probably be cheaper than a week in a big box hotel, offer more space – and maybe laundry too – and with wifi and 4G, or even 5G service widely available, with easy phone plans for roaming, connectivity is hardly a concern.
At the very least, why not “work from home” on a Friday and fly off somehwhere Thursday night, just before?
Emerging countries are already experienced in remote working expats, and an influx of Western cash could do wonders for local economies struggling without tourists, as demand re-emerges. Renting a local place is going to have more community impact than staying in a hotel in many cases too.
Just like Airbnb, an oversaturation of infrastructure going to tourists can mess with neighborhoods in a negative way, and push locals out of key areas, but done properly, it could mean vital cash for small businesses all over the world from Cartagena, Colombia to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
It could mean fewer flights, due to people taking fewer trips, but a form of travel which has deeper meaning and matter. We took travel for granted, and this may be a better way to praise it like we should, while getting more joy out of our daily work life.