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According to a recent survey by American Express, almost 70% of the people polled are in favor of expanding sustainable travel, for both leisure and business – particularly amid shifts in working culture. Before the pandemic, there wasn’t a huge demand for flight-free travel from the corporate world. But many companies had embarked on setting ambitious carbon reduction targets before the pandemic, and cutting travel was regarded as one way to achieve those.
That could mean a new trend towards rail travel, instead of air travel. The emerging work-from-anywhere trend could further accelerate flight-free travel, with some organizations influencing these decisions.
“It’s increasingly center stage for our clients, they understand rail offers an effective way to help reach their carbon reduction targets,” said Jason Geall, vice president and general manager Europe, American Express Global Business Travel. “But sustainability is not the whole story. Corporates are also aware of the train’s total trip benefits. On a time-elapsed basis, the plane might beat the train. But when you consider the total trip, rail offers a journey with fewer interruptions and a more productive traveler experience.”
He cited one client in North America that is now amending its travel policy to encourage travelers to take the train for trips under 300 miles and/or two hours. The enhanced policy applies to the “US Northeast Corridor” but will later include Europe and Asia.
Another customer is seeking advice on how it can use its online booking tool to actively substitute rail for air. “We started in Germany with data analysis to understand the company’s travel patterns and where they can use the train rather than the plane. We will start working in other countries in the months ahead,” Geall said. He added that Amex GBT was also committed to rail before the pandemic, and in Europe it was facilitating six million rail transactions each year.
Rival agency CWT said it too was seeing more clients implement or analyze travel policies incorporating rules around when to choose rail. “This no doubt will continue to rise as governments consider mandating short-haul journeys to be made by road or rail, rather than by air,” the company said.