New research by global travel services expert Collinson has found that more than four-fifths of business travelers in the UAE and KSA have seen their job affected in some way by a lack of cross-border business travel, and around one third specifically said that they feel unable to do their job effectively. It is commonly thought that business travel recovery will be slower to pick up than leisure travel due to businesses continuing to function during the pandemic without travel. Yet, as a further one-third of business travelers in the UAE and KSA say that not being able to travel for business has made them less productive, these new findings demonstrate the economic importance of cross-border business travel for the GCC.
The survey results reveal that while most business meetings are now conducted digitally via video call, there is a growing need and desire among many business travelers to recommence travel. It is, however, essential to note that they will be looking to their employers for the correct provision of support and assistance solutions before taking to the skies again – those that protect not just their physical but also mental health.
Before the pandemic, 31% of UAE business travelers raised concerns about the impact of business travel on their mental health, while 42% said it had increased their stress levels. Our research conducted during the pandemic indicates that these feelings have intensified and that these areas will now be more critical for businesses and the travel sector to focus on. In fact, 80% of business travelers in KSA and 76% in the UAE say they’ll be prioritizing their mental wellbeing more when they travel in the future than they did before the pandemic. As businesses consider restarting cross-border travel, the challenge remains in making sure employees don’t feel it comes at a cost to their physical and mental health.
Post-pandemic corporate wellbeing initiatives will be high on the agenda of companies globally. Employees who need to travel for work should be able to do so with confidence, knowing that their company provides them with full support.
However, more than half of UAE (57%) and KSA (55%) business travelers interviewed in our pre-pandemic survey said their employer expected them to prioritize keeping the cost of travel low over their wellbeing and safety. Alongside this, pre-pandemic, only 25% of UAE and 20% of KSA business travelers were certain that their employer offered a travel risk management (TRM) program and knew how to use it. Getting business travel back on the road will require a strong focus on ensuring that employees’ wellbeing is prioritized and that there is not just adequate support in place but that employees clearly understand what is available.
Priyanka Lakhani, Commercial Director Middle East and Africa and Director South Asia at Collinson, said: “The importance of business travel remains clear, and this research certainly proves that the lack of cross border travel has had an impact on the ability of many to do their job effectively. However, what this research also highlights is that despite the need and desire for the return to business travel in the region, both mental and physical wellbeing, and well thought through, and well-communicated TRM programs are going to be very important for individuals moving forward. In order to make business travelers feel comfortable travelling again, it won’t just be a question of Covid-19 measures such as testing and vaccinations, but an opportunity for businesses to understand what their employees want from the future of corporate travel and build this into their programs to offer the right support and provide a great experience for employees, partners and clients when taking to the skies again.”