“The big business travel has started again – and is now actually different than before? We spoke to Christoph Canier, president of the German business travel association VDR, about home office duty, short trip endings and long trips to the USA.” Sylvie Konzack
Mr Carnier, companies are on the road again, meetings and congresses are taking place everywhere. Corona seems to be over in business travel for the time being. To what extent can the business travel association VDR confirm this?
It varies, not all companies are active here. But in any case we see that there is a strong return and high demand, combined with a high pent-up demand. This is just becoming visible everywhere in that the airlines are not keeping up and the travel agencies are having problems because people have more questions.
How do you personally experience this time?
I am travelling a lot, but was doing so during Corona as much as I could. Flying is also a big issue again, with all the problems because the airports lost so many staff during the pandemic.
Travelling less but longer and more bundled – there has been a lot of speculation about possible trends in the last two years. Which of these has been confirmed so far?
It is still too early to assess that. But we are already hearing from individual colleagues that some trips are being bundled together and short trips with one or two hours of meetings are actually history, which is also good. I don’t drive across the country for an appointment either, it’s now accepted that you don’t have to be on site for that. But once the catch-up effect wears off, we’ll see how the business travel volume adjusts.
Are the topics of sustainability, travel risk, etc. really being addressed now, or is there just a lot of catching up to do?
For me, the issue of sustainability has a bigger impact than Corona. This is because companies are obliged to demonstrate a sustainability strategy, which sooner or later includes the issue of business travel. Due to the war in Ukraine, companies are also changing their supply chain and possibly broadening their supplier system. And that, too, leads to more travel.
Is there a growing need for bleisure and remote work?
A clear yes, because at the moment many companies are still concerned with bringing employees back to the offices. There has been a lack of exchange, innovation has slowed down somewhat – and the office is still the place to be. In addition, there is the discussion about a right to a home office, which I find superfluous: the companies should be able to decide for themselves, and the employees should choose their employer accordingly. All this will have to settle down. But no doubt we have learned in the pandemic that you can work from anywhere. I too changed my USA trip last year: from four jam-packed days with hundreds of unprocessed mails and eating out every evening to 14 equalised days with a relaxed schedule, a tidy mailbox and more eating in the flat. Grandiose! I am lucky to work in a company that is flexible in this respect.
But I am also convinced that the topics of bleisure and remote work will be a growing desire for employees. The opportunities to stay longer or work more permanently, from abroad – I think we will see that more often.
Remote work is also a lot about the legal options at the moment. Politicians still have to create the framework to some extent.
Yes, many human resources departments are dealing with this at the moment, e.g. also with questions about the first place of work and presence obligations. Because one thing is whether we can do something – the other is whether we want to. In general, I hope that the legislator will set things up in such a way that they leave enough flexibility. But we should definitely talk again in a year’s time about how all these things have developed.
Sylvie Konzack …
also believes that in a year’s time the trend fog in business travel will have cleared up considerably more. The big return to the office must soon be followed by firmly established hybrid concepts between office and home office times. On this basis, HR and travel management departments can also set the framework for remote work and workation stays.
Foto: © VDR