Throughout 2020, remote working and video chats have largely become the norm. Most business travel was halted in response to the global COVID-19 outbreak, and further clamped down by a series of border closures and travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, remote meetings via the likes of Microsoft Teams and Zoom have made many question if business travel will ever fully return to the shape and scale of pre-pandemic days.
However, research published by Harvard University this month suggests that business travel will remain in the ascendancy because of its ability to spread ‘knowhow’.
Knowhow is different to “information and codified knowledge that exists in books, computer files, graphs and algorithms,” the Ivy League university shares.
Instead, “knowhow only exists in brains, and moves very slowly from brain to brain through years of experience.”
“Moving knowhow quickly involves moving brains,” and that’s where business travel comes in – and will remain strong, Harvard believes.
Business travel builds economies
Beyond the expansion of ‘knowhow’ across the globe, payment card data supplied by Mastercard and analysed by Harvard also demonstrated that business travel had a positive impact on GDP in both travellers’ origin and destination countries.
The data showed that if Australia stops sending business travellers abroad – as it’s now largely doing by way of closed borders and travel bans – this would most heavily affect New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, the United Arab Emirates, Philippines and Sri Lanka, in that order.
In fact, Australian business travellers heading overseas are responsible for 0.09% of total global GDP.
While that number may not sound significant, it places Australian travellers just behind those from Singapore and China in terms of global economic worth.
Australia itself also heavily benefits from inbound business travellers from overseas.
When international borders are open, Australia’s share of the inbound business travel market is disproportionately large compared to Australia’s population size.
By analysing the same data, the researchers at Harvard claim that Australia’s economy is 9.6% larger than it would have otherwise been if business visits were more closely in line with population, as they are in many other parts of the world.
Of course, with Australia’s borders remaining closed, inbound business travel remains at a practical standstill – and with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggesting it’s “unlikely” the country’s borders would re-open before Christmas, many internationally-focused businesses will be strapping in for a bumpy ride.