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Many employees now view business travel as an added benefit to the job

By Ripsy Bandourian

Face-to-face meetings are the lifeblood of any business – whether they serve the purpose of strengthening client relationships, securing new business leads or collaborating with colleagues overseas.

In this way, the primary benefit of business travel is clear – it strengthens the relationships that fuel business longevity and growth. In fact, 46 per cent of professionals globally agree that successful meetings and business growth are what they hope to achieve while travelling for business. However, enhancing business performance isn’t the only reason that employees are seeking opportunities to travel for business – their reasons don’t always relate to the boardroom.

So, what are professionals today looking to gain from business travel, and what motivates them to seize opportunities to do so?

The evolution of attitudes towards business travel

Over the years, there has been a shift in attitude towards business travel and its value. Traditionally, business travel was seen as largely functional and necessary for the facilitation of face-to-face client meetings with clear business objectives in mind – whether securing a new contract or formalizing a deal. However, over time there has been an increased focus on the individual employee benefits that can be gained through business travel – in the form of professional development, furthering their skillset and enriching their professional lives. For example, while on a business trip, 36 per cent of global professionals aspire to learn a new skill, 37 per cent seek to gain inspiration to apply to their work and 30 per cent hope to better understand a new culture and its business impact. With these benefits in mind, business travel is now also viewed for its importance to the individual employee, and not just the organization.

The modern office has bred the modern business traveller

That business travel is no longer seen purely within these parameters is reflective of the fact that modern ways of working have evolved, in large part due to the role of technology. The rise of mobile communications and savvy technology has enabled independence and freedom for employees across many industries. Employees today are empowered with responsibility for their own schedules – with 61 per cent of employers now sponsoring a flexible work system – and therefore the focus for many businesses is on employee productivity as opposed to desk time.

Business travellers today are taking advantage of opportunities to explore and are even extending their trips to soak up new destinations and pursue leisure activities that align with their interests.

This has initiated a shift in organizational business culture from more formal, deskbound set-ups towards flexible ways of working – be that at home or on the road for business travel. This independence has also meant that employees who travel for business often plan and book their own business travel. Online tools mean employees can seamlessly book and manage their own arrangements, quickly and simply, from anywhere. Similarly, any time outside of business meetings on a corporate trip was previously seen as “dead” time. However, today’s business traveller looks to plan their own time to not only meet essential commitments, but tailor trips to their own professional priorities and goals. Outside of business meetings, business travellers are looking for opportunities to boost their business acumen, enlarge their business circles by networking or gain inspiration for creative ideas. In this way, business travel has become an important and transformative experience for accelerating one’s career.

Business travel as an extension of lifestyle

In many ways, business travel and leisure travel have become increasingly similar in terms of their value to the traveller and the way people approach travel options, accommodation and usage of time. Just as leisure travel is often linked to wellbeing and fulfilment, business travel is now seen as time to be capitalized on and made the most of. Business travellers today are taking advantage of opportunities to explore and are even extending their trips to soak up new destinations and pursue leisure activities that align with their interests. Even the busiest of professionals with schedule pressures opt to extend business trips for leisure – nearly a quarter of professionals globally often do this, according to research. The tendency to extend a business trip can be linked to the fact that employees are having to travel further than ever before for business meetings in an increasingly globalized marketplace.

Business travel is the key to professional success

Yet, business travel is not merely seen as a way to experience new places. Sixty per cent of professionals globally agree that experiencing new cultures and destinations adds value to their job. In this way, business travel enhances job satisfaction and enriches one’s career. It is also the case that business travel can improve employees’ ability to do their job well, with over half of professionals globally (51 per cent).

It is clear that there has been a steep change in attitudes towards business travel, largely due to the rise of modern mobile work. 

Ripsy Bandourian is the senior director of product development for Booking.com.

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