By Matthias Kros
Heidelberg. Many companies want to significantly reduce their number of business trips in the long term. According to the Association of German Travel Management (VDR) in Frankfurt, more than 60 percent of companies expect a decline of up to a third even after the corona pandemic. Likewise, the region’s economy is preparing for new times: “In view of the positive experience with virtual meetings, we do not expect the number of business trips to return to the level before the pandemic,” said a spokesman for the Walldorf-based software company SAP on Monday.
The building materials group HeidelbergCement is even clearer, and according to its own information, it has always limited business trips to the necessary minimum for cost reasons. “After the pandemic, we will certainly not travel to the same extent as before, we are expecting a decline in the number of business trips,” said a company spokesman in Heidelberg. Replacing shorter meetings with video conferences has already proven its worth. “We also assume that the subject of mobility will fundamentally change in the future,” the spokesman continued. In addition, one expects that the travel restrictions in some countries will persist for some time.
The corona pandemic brought about a profound turning point for business trips. According to the VDR, only a tenth of the trips are currently taking place, which saves the economy a lot of money. While companies in Germany spent 55.3 billion euros on business travel in 2019, it was only 5.5 billion in 2020.
So it’s no wonder that the BASF employees in Ludwigshafen will not be on the road as much in the future either: “The past few months have shown that meetings can increasingly take place virtually,” explained a spokeswoman. As a result of activities within the digital transformation and an increasingly digital-savvy workforce, communication and collaboration are gradually changing anyway. “The corona pandemic also reinforces this transformation process,” said the spokeswoman. It is therefore expected that “these two aspects will permanently reduce the number of business trips”. However, it is currently not possible to estimate how strong this reduction will be.
Competitor Bayer, on the other hand, already knows this more precisely: The pharmaceutical and chemical company wants to reduce group-wide travel activities by half in future – compared to the level before the crisis. This will save 200 million euros, reports the “Handelsblatt”. Business trips should remain the exception in the future, says the insurer Allianz. Virtual solutions, on the other hand, are the standard.
In addition to the hotel industry, the aviation industry in particular will suffer from this development. Before the pandemic, Lufthansa made around half of its sales with business customers. Smaller airlines like Mannheim-based Rhein-Neckar Air even have their backs against the wall. The flights from Mannheim City Airport to Berlin and Hamburg, which were used almost exclusively by business people, are suspended until further notice. An attempted resumption in autumn was quickly stopped due to a lack of bookings, and there is no date for a resumption. Only the North Sea island of Sylt is currently being approached.