Business travel accounts for a significant portion of Australia’s travel sector and contributes to the local economy. Since the start of the pandemic, the SME sector has been greatly affected and has experienced a significant decline in traveling.
But after lockdowns, SMEs will be a key driver in the country’s travel recovery, and will play an important role in giving the economy a much-needed boost.
Small businesses account for around 98% of all Australian businesses and across our own corporate travel businesses, SMEs makes up 65% of business travel.
SMEs are the backbone of the Australian economy and growth in both business sales and employee productivity bring direct benefits to the country’s bottom line. SME business travel also benefits the country’s business sector, as it enables face-to-face relationship building with stakeholders.
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While many businesses have worked remotely since the start of the pandemic, in-person communication allows for better problem-solving, the ability to build a rapport and fosters company culture. And while video conferencing has been an efficient means of communication during the pandemic, it’s ineffective in situations where collaboration is needed, particularly when making important business decisions.
Face-to-face relationship building with customers helps drive sales, while in-person interaction with employees helps increase employee engagement, retention and improves productivity. People can also connect at an emotional level with stakeholders outside the ‘clinical’ aspect of doing business.
Australia also has a large domestic travel market and SME business travel encourages spending — with total business travel spend in Australia estimated to be $25 billion per year. When businesses cannot travel, the economy is affected.
In fact, the recent lockdowns have postponed many of Corporate Traveller’s customers’ travel — the SME travel arm of Flight Centre Travel Group. If SMEs are confident to return to travel, I predict the country’s domestic travel will bounce back healthily within the next 12 months.
Vaccinations, rapid COVID testing, traveller tracking and contact tracing, hotel hygiene, insurance offerings and government policy will be key to restoring business confidence to return to travel and ultimately drive the recovery of the sector.
For business travel to resume after lockdowns, SMEs will want live, accurate updates and information when travelling and I urge them to engage with a travel management service that has the technology, data and connections to provide real-time travel and infection-control updates.