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The impact of Covid-19 on business travel has been long-lasting and could result in permanent changes to the road-warrior lifestyle, which came to a screeching halt in the early days of the pandemic, Forbesreported. One of the big challenges for the business-travel sector is that, even if Covid eventually goes away, Zoom will still be here – causing executives to reassess the value of work trips in a new normal, where web conferencing has gained popularity.

That trend is likely not going away, and it’s spawning new catch phrases like “bleisure” and “return to base.” According to Morning Consult data, the percentage of frequent business travelers who say they’ll never return to the road has ticked up from 39% in October 2021 to 42% in February 2022.

In 2019, business travel injected $334 billion dollars into the U.S. economy and supported 2.5 million jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a February 2022, predicted that many types of business trips would be replaced by virtual meetings, though some in-person trips – like sales pitches and trade conferences – would return to the pre-pandemic normal. “Boomerang trips,” which waste a day of travel for a one-hour, in-person meeting, could be gone for good.

Business travel’s big buzzword now is “bleisure” – a blend of business and leisure. A typical bleisure trip might be a three-day work trip with a few days of play tacked on to the front or back end. Morning Consult’s February 2022 report found that the share of former frequent travelers who expect to take a bleisure trip in the coming year is nearly equal to the share who will travel solely for business. The AHLA’s 2022 report also noted that bleisure has “exploded during the pandemic.”

Another growing trend is “return to base” travel. Think of it as the old business-travel model, but in reverse. In the conventional paradigm, employees based at company headquarters flew off to do business in other cities. With “return to base” travel, remote workers are called into a local “campus” from time to time.

Historically, business travel has rebounded slower than leisure travel following catastrophic events like the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the 2008 financial recession, which also explains why so many professional prognosticators have predicted a slow and tepid recovery for corporate travel. The AHLA’s annual “State of the Hotel Industry” report, published in January, predicts that “while leisure travel will likely return fully in 2022, business travel is projected to remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels.”

Source: Forbes