Corporates outline plans for less business travel

The demand for corporate travel will not return to its former level as major companies look to slash their carbon footprint, with major professional services groups such as Deloitte and Ernst & Young (EY) leading the way.

EY aims to cut out day trips, substitute rail for air travel, reduce the numbers attending meetings and “challenge” travellers to reconsider trips.

Karen Hutchings, EY global head of travel, meetings and events, told the Capa Centre for Aviation summit: “We’re targeting day trips. We’ve not done any over the past two years and 18% of our air travel was day trips [pre-Covid].”

She said the strategy was based on “having a quick impact”, with “three key areas of focus: no day trips, going by rail instead of air where we can, and the volume of people who go to meetings”.

Hutchings added: “We’re challenging some travel. We challenge individuals to rethink, to cancel or change [their plans].

“We propose rail as an alternative where it is a viable option. For example, Eurostar is a more efficient route for London to Paris.”

She argued: “Travel is here to stay. However, we have a CO2 reduction target.”

Hutchings questioned whether an initial rebound in corporate travel would continue, arguing: “There is pent-up demand for meetings and events. We have this peak in people wanting to meet up. But I’m not sure it will keep up. In the next six months, they [travellers] will have seen everyone. Do they need to carry on travelling then?”

Investment analyst Alex Irving of Bernstein Research said investors were taking a “wait and see” attitude on corporate travel and airlines that rely on it.

“This is something investors are worried about,” he said. “I talk to major airlines where 40% of their revenues are from corporate travel. Investors are tending to move toward low-cost carriers, so they’re not so exposed to corporate travel. There is a bit of ‘wait and see’ on legacy carriers.”

Irving noted differences within the corporate travel market, suggesting: “SMEs are travelling more than big corporates. SMEs need to get out because they don’t have staff around the world and need to meet their customers.”

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