Not all damage wrought by the pandemic is readable in case numbers. A new report released this week by Chubb, a publicly traded international casualty insurance company, finds that business travelers around the world believe the Covid-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions have negatively impacted their effectiveness on the job as well as the ability of their employers to develop business, serve clients and maintain business relationships. At the same time, business travelers report that they have personally missed traveling for work and leisure, and are eager to get back on the road.
The Chubb survey, tabbed “Time to Fly: The Impact of Covid-19 on the Present and Future of Business Travel, pulled the following from 2,100 surveys of business travelers fielded between February 24 and March 30, 2021. The Chubb survey is the first of its kind to poll business travelers across four regions: North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America.
• Globally, 80 percent or more of business travelers believe they are missing something important when they cannot see body language or other visual clues that you can only get in an in-person meeting.
• Nearly three out of four business travelers (74 percent) say they are less effective in their job due to the pandemic and severely limited travel opportunities. Areas that have been negatively impacted include client service and the ability to maintain relationships with clients and business partners.
• With the proper precautions, respondents are twice as likely to feel more comfortable traveling for business than for leisure. One reason cited: business is important to their livelihood.
• A large majority of business travelers (69 percent) expect that company travel budgets will be trimmed in a post-Covid world to reduce expenses.
• 75 percent of business travelers are willing pay more to keep the middle seat open when they fly.
• 87 percent of business travelers have been personally concerned about contracting Covid during the pandemic, and take steps to protect themselves, including wearing masks and social distancing. A smaller share (74 percent) say they always follow government rules. Another 24 percent say they sometimes follow Covid restrictions. Adherence to Covid safety protocols is highest among travelers in Latin America at 87 percent.
“Effective vaccines are being rolled out, economies are beginning to stir, and travel is picking up again. This was the right time to understand the perceptions of business travelers about their experiences during the pandemic, and what their expectations are for travel in a post-Covid world,” said John Thompson, Division President, International Accident and Health. “What travel do regular business travelers think can be effectively replaced by meeting virtually? What is the opportunity cost of staying at your desk versus traveling to meet in person? The answers to these and other questions are important, as businesses make decisions about future travel budgets, return to office, and the new criteria for traveling to meet with clients, develop business or attend conferences.”
Other findings from the Chubb survey:
• Globally, 84 percent of business travelers say they cannot wait to travel again without fear of getting Covid. Four out of five say they have personally missed business travel. An even larger share – 87 percent – say they miss leisure travel.
• Most business travelers have high levels of trust in airlines. Some 85 percent say airlines are doing everything they can to keep travel safe. Nearly as many (77 percent) say travel by plane during the pandemic is safe if passengers adhere to safety protocols, including wearing a mask.
• However, business travelers worry that their fellow travelers will put them at risk of getting Covid. Nearly nine out of 10 business travelers are concerned that their fellow travelers are not responsibly following Covid protocols.
• While respondents miss business travel and the benefits of face-to-face meetings, they do acknowledge some benefits from working virtually. Notably, 73 percent say they can productively use the time they would have spent traveling. And 82 percent say that video conferences and phone calls can be effective alternatives to business travel.
• Business travelers are paying more attention to what travel insurance covers. More than four out of five business travelers (81 percent) say the pandemic will make them pay more attention to what travel insurance coverage they have before taking a trip. Business travelers also broadly agree (86 percent) that having travel insurance makes them more comfortable when traveling for business or leisure.
• Business travelers expect another pandemic. Some 80 percent of business travelers – including 43 percent who strongly agree – expect another pandemic at some point in the future.