Man Laptop Beach Summer Sea Concept

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.

Man Laptop Beach Summer Sea ConceptOf course, this will never apply to all jobs, but thanks to technology breakthroughs, most work can be shared and even collaborated online. If it saves companies thousands, even millions in rent, in times of recession – expect the trend to continue.

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.

a red flower on a glass table with a mountain in the backgroundAnd really, what child or adult, wouldn’t benefit from an entire month in a new culture, or practicing the language they’ve been learning in school. Hablando espanol en un pais que habla espanol es preferente como en la escuela. Sorry, my Spanish isn’t great, but it’s a lot better when I’m immersed in a Spanish speaking country.

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.

boats in the water with boats in itThere will always be one-percenters filling luxury hotels in ritzy cities, but this form of local and immersive travel is a more achievable goal than ever, for more people than ever, as society becomes less encumbered by commutes and clock ins at the office. Always wanted to master the pad thai? Why not go live in Thailand for a month.

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.

HT: Live And Let’s Fly

Business Travel

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Today the CEO of Boeing stated that the airlines will need 2 to 3 years before seeing levels pre-COVID; some analysts of the industry say 5 years will be needed. They are all just guesses. The outlook appears grim. ‘Appears’ because no one can rightly state when the alarm over COVID is silenced and how swift people will return to normal life.

    I think most will wait a month or two and then jump into fifth gear. Today, San Francisco city and county along with five surrounding counties of the S.F. Bay Area extended the lock down to 31 May. But we also see states opening now very rapidly, we see some extending shelter in place, so this confusion and uncertainty will keep businesses from getting their people back into the aircraft, for planning for and attending meetings, conventions, trade fairs, exhibitions, and shows. Consider that in Germany the ban of 5,000 people goes through October 24th! This means many events, shows, concerts, trade fairs, etc. are being canceled or postponed into 2021. Oktoberfest in Munich is canceled. But the French and U.S. Open tennis matches are still on as is the Tour de France, albeit postponed from July to August. It’s a real mix out there.

    No one has a handle on divining when things will be back to normal. My guesstimate is by the end of this year, November.

    That said, we will have to see if the autumn brings a second wave in North America, Europe in concert with the regular flu season. If so, then all bets are off. This summer, I believe many people, in their tens of millions, especially the younger generations, and who might think that the ‘low’ threat season will be June-August will rush to fill hotels, eateries, museums, campgrounds, nature parks, lakes, beaches, concerts, and other events. They are hungry, bored and more than ready to make up for lost time and fun in the sun.

    Consider, that while some face financial hardship – and they could for many months – many people are awash in saved up cash that they have not spent on discretionary items, and from stimulus cash grants they received from their governments. So there is a pent up demand.

    Greece, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia have announced opening up programs. Croatia hasn’t suffered like other countries from infections/deaths, and are expecting a record year for tourists as they anticipate a surge of northern Europeans to their relatively unaffected country, its beautiful Adriatic beaches and villages.

    Optimism is now prevailing. The worst is indeed behind the world. We just don’t know if the openings will cause a spike in cases or this fall/winter brings a second wave. Fingers crossed.

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