ROI FROM THE ROAD
Business Traveler|June/July 2021
As business travel resets, maximizing value of each trip is a bigger question than go-or-no-go
MARK ROWH
After more months than we care to count, things seem to be looking up for business travel. But with the impact of COVID-19 likely to continue for some time, the economics of travel face scrutiny like never before. In fact, the time may be ideal for entrepreneurs and business owner-leaders to assess the real return on their investment in travel.

While the pandemic has been a game-changer, efforts to calculate the ROI of business are nothing new. As far back as 2009, research and consulting organization Oxford Economics estimated that for each dollar invested in business travel, companies realize $12.50 in incremental revenue. Conversely, a business that eliminated business travel could anticipate a 17 percent loss of profits in the first year while expecting to take a full three years for profits to recover.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and making such a calculation has become more challenging. Along with the other complexities of modern business, new ways to interact have emerged that can offer viable options to traditional travel.

“Stakes are higher than ever for companies to maximize the ROI for every business trip or relocation,” Steve Black, CSO at Topia, a company specializing in global talent mobility. “Instead of an employee flying fifteen hours for a short meeting with a client or customer, companies will demand more ROI and a stronger business case.” At the same time, travelers may need to plan for longer business trips, schedule more meetings and pack more value in a given trip to justify the expense and the potential risk of traveling.

Yet while the cost of doing business by phone or online may be a fraction of the expense involved in attending in person, the undisputed value of conducting business face-to-face, person-to-person – especially as business recovers and competition heats up – may be more critical than ever.

“At the end of the day, it’s important to understand that this is an exceptional time and that at some point most of the old ways of doing business will return,” notes Katya Yerpo, international business and management consultant for Osprey Consulting. While current travel limitations make negotiations through digital platforms more socially and politically acceptable, that will never be the whole story. “Face-to-face negotiations will never go out of style since they’re the most effective way to do business in general,” she says. “And they’ll start to become necessary in certain scenarios again soon enough.”

CHECKING THE BOXES

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