2021 Business Travel Trends

Travel of all kinds took a pretty serious hit in 2020. The stark realities of COVID-19 and their impact on how we live, work, and play were impossible to ignore. Remote work, online meetings, and other socially distanced “best practices” have altered how we do business in ways we’re only just beginning to understand, but that are most likely here to stay…even after the pandemic is under control. 

Even so, professional travel will always be a necessary facet of many aspects of the business world. As such, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of the sorts of trends that will come to define how we do business going forward. 

If you’ve got some commercial travel on the books in 2021, here’s some of what you can expect to experience.

Advanced Air Travel Safety

Common sense would seem to indicate that spending time in a confined space alongside groups of people to whom you’ve previously had no exposure might constitute a high-risk scenario. However, some recent data indicates that this may not necessarily be the case. A recent Harvard University study offers strong evidence that given proper precautions and practices (e.g., air carriers’ stringent sanitization protocols, superior cabin air ventilation, and mask-wearing mandates for crew and passengers), flying on a commercial aircraft can be “safer than going to the supermarket.” So business travelers can fly with confidence.


Hybrid Meetings

As many companies get back to a new-normal “business as usual,” fresh directions are emerging that may well dictate the tenor of business for years to come. Among these developing trends is the “hybrid event.” In short, hybrid events are business functions that blend online and in-person elements to create meetings that adhere to safer practices while still affording a certain level of in-person connection. Studies show that face-to-face meetings typically yield a higher return on investment, and maintaining those benefits while incorporating online elements that reduce risk will likely prove to be the best way forward. Best Western Plus Island Palms is preparing to offer comprehensive hybrid event packages in 2021. Check here for further information, and be sure to stay tuned for more!

Better, Faster, More Accurate Testing

In order to help stop the spread, many businesses are affording associates with rapid-response COVID-19 testing in order to determine safety levels and dictate procedure for business travel in 2021. In addition, international business travelers may find testing stations at both departure and arrival points, depending on their country of origin. In addition to assisting with peace of mind, these protocols can assist in cutting transmission rates by alerting travelers and officials to risk levels.

An Expected Q3/Q4 Uptick

Due to COVID-19’s early prominence in 2020, business travel was impacted quite heavily. 2021 has brought good news in the form of leveling transmission rates, as well as increased distribution of effective vaccines. Due to this one-two punch of increasing safety and reduced spread, many analysts project a gradual upward trend of business travel returning to stabler levels in the second half of the year. It remains to be seen what lasting impact remote work and teleconferencing will continue to have on professional travel in the third and fourth quarters of 2021, but it seems safe to say that frequent travelers may be packing their suitcases more frequently than their laptop bags as the year progresses.    

The Ascent of “Bleisure” Travel

Employee stress levels and professional burnout have always been corporate concerns, but these anxiety-inducing conditions became even more of a concern during 2020’s rapidly shifting business climate. The perhaps-unavoidable response? So-called “bleisure” travel, a hybrid of business and leisure. As a built-in reward for asking professional travelers to take trips they may not necessarily be looking forward to, many corporate entities are allowing — and even encouraging — their associates to extend trips a few days (or more) on either side of their professional event schedule in order to enjoy their destination from a non-working perspective. Expect this trend to continue in 2021 — especially if your business travel takes you to San Diego! Given our business-friendly features (like property-wide high-speed Wi-Fi) and ideal location, Best Western Plus Island Palms is perfectly suited to combo professional / pleasure accommodation.