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Lead by Example: Executives Can Play a Critical Role in Reviving Business Travel

After more than a year of Zoom calls, mute button issues and virtual meetings, I think we are all in agreement: there is nothing like an in-person, face-to-face connection. 

In-person professional meetings and events (PMEs) are more productive and meaningful and are critical to forming business-building relationships. Despite these benefits, business travel is making a sluggish recovery, far slower that of the domestic leisure travel segment. In fact, it is expected that corporate travel, professional meetings, conventions and events are expected to take four years or more to recover. 

This is particularly alarming when you consider that, despite accounting for just 20% of total trip volume pre-pandemic, business travelers account for 40-60% of lodging and air revenue. Evidently, a full recovery of the travel economy is simply not possible without the return of business travel. 

That is why the industry is turning our focus to the next chapter of the Let’s Go There initiative: Let’s Meet There. This next phase will seek to elevate the value of in-person PMEs and advocate for updated guidance differentiating these meetings from other informal, large gatherings. 

As business leaders, it is crucial that we lead the charge back to planning and attending meetings—and importantly, we need to motivate our employees to resume traveling, too. Encouraging our teams to seize the competitive advantage and begin traveling again is vital to re-establishing connections and reinvigorating our businesses.

There is a great deal at stake. In 2019 alone, nearly 500 million business trips were taken in the U.S, with $348 billion in spending supporting 2.5 million American jobs. That productivity was all but extinguished last year, with the U.S. seeing a decline of more than $200 billion in direct business travel spending, leading to the loss of nearly 1.5 million jobs and $28.8 billion in tax revenue.

There is much work to do, but I believe business leaders can play a key role in leading this sector back to growth. 

I look forward to continuing working with our partners, and hope to see all of my industry colleagues—in-person—very soon.

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