As the travel sector continues to recover, patterns of corporate travel established prior to the pandemic have yet to fully again take shape.

As the travel sector continues to recover, patterns of corporate travel established prior to the pandemic have yet to fully again take shape. The proliferation of the work-from-home model gave rise to the digital nomad, and communications and collaborative tools have supplemented the all-important client meeting or company-wide touch base. While a portion of overall travel has returned, this fluidity has made it difficult to target when or how a true revival within the corporate sector will come. Beyond that, renewed economic concerns may make virtual options more suitable in the short term. As the new year gets underway, what can employees expect?

Where Some Signs Point


Economic concerns have surpassed Covid-19 as a leading cause of concern for business travel suppliers. Despite that, many companies have no immediate plans to limit business travel. The lines between work and play have also blended as a result of flexible working arrangements, which will impact pricing structures and overall travel patterns. The legacy of the pandemic has required travel professionals to be malleable and dedicated to conforming to the evolving needs of their customers. Any tentativeness by companies or employees will require travel providers to be all the more discerning in how they plan and the accommodations they suggest. However, the sector has generally experienced an incredible degree of recovery this year, and any grim outlook might just discount the resiliency built throughout the past few years.

The Nomadic Workforce


Speaking of resilience, critical workforces in industries like construction, healthcare and first responders will always need to travel to some degree. Compounding that fact with the rise of the digital nomad, it becomes clear that workforces are on the move whether by choice, the simple nature of their jobs or both. There is a range of corporate housing providers out there, and all are operating under limited inventory and a rising cost of living. The distinction between them is the lengths they’ll go to support their customers. At a time when many may struggle to find the right accommodation, at the right time and price point, friendly and personable customer service remains a business imperative.

The Employer-Run Model


The variability of the market across cities and towns nationwide has created unique pressures for a number of industries. Over the last year, employers from hospitality services to mom-and-pop shops have opted to build housing directly for employees to increase the chances of retention. While it’s difficult to target where and when this kind of model will take root, with a tight labor market in sectors like construction and healthcare, the odds are this is coming soon to a provider near you.
Depending on individual needs or corporate policies, there is a multitude of options for workers looking for or needing to make a move. Whether a company or individual owns payment, amid economic contraction, expect more particularity as it relates to housing. Third-party providers will aim to target optimum lengths of stays, budgets and locations, regardless of who ultimately foots the bill. In the larger view, employers want to incentivize their workforces and housing can be a key strategy in that effort.

What’s next?


Changing workstyles, shifting (inter)national regulations and fluctuating price indexes all impact travel patterns. What has already been a convergence of our professional and private lives may only further hasten as the lines between work and play continue to blur. Changes to 5G availability on flights in Europe likely will make it easier to get things done, no matter the altitude. While that shift is unlikely to arrive in the States any time soon, work and travel will always overlap to some degree. Remote and hybrid models have changed the makeup of city centers, contributing to a “donut effect“where many opt to relocate to lower-density suburban areas.

The travel industry has come to experience a surprise or two. Though pinpointing exactly where a trend or challenge will develop can’t always be expected, movement within the sector has fueled ingenuity and laid the foundation for further recovery. This year specifically was one of recalibration, and early signals of an upward trend for personal and business travel were a welcome boon. Current uncertainty can be faced with flexibility, a willingness to examine any and all solutions, and considerations for those whose work is essential.

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