Making Your Travel a Driver for Business Growth in 2021

“Revenues for nearly half of small and mid-market businesses have declined by up to 25 percent in the aftermath of 2020” -Wall Street Journal/Vistage Report


After the far-reaching disruption caused by 2020, businesses of all sizes are struggling to turn the challenges of the past year into attainable, long-term plans for recovery in 2021 and beyond.

This is especially the case for small and mid-market companies that have witnessed suppressed revenues and business models fragmented by pandemic restrictions and changing buyer behavior. While the road ahead in 2021 gives reason for optimism, it is still a daunting course of both obstacles and opportunities.  

To help strong leaders prevent business stagnation, Direct Travel has pinpointed the top areas of opportunity in 2021 to drive growth for your business through thoughtful, strategic travel. Your business goals and corporate travel program are closely intertwined, even if your most frequent travelers have not yet returned to the road. Below we provide introductions to how growth, uncertainty, and people & culture can positively impact your business travel and generate ROI in the process.

Fuel Growth

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest barriers to growth is the traditional tools and metrics business leaders have relied on for years have changed. This seemingly overnight phenomenon has occurred as customer needs and buying patterns have rapidly evolved to keep pace with a pandemic-focused world.

This constant change means that businesses must stay closer to customers than ever before, despite travel restrictions that may make it difficult to do so. While video calls may seem like an initial solution, they can only take you so far in your quest to stand out from the competition. Experts instead predict that more targeted and meaningful travel will be the focus for the future.

The first step for most businesses is to chart a new model forward that allows for effective client solicitation and retention. Start by asking yourself: How much travel does my company need in order to win (or win back) clients in key markets? This will help you gage the spread and range of face-to-face meetings to plan for in 2021. We will explore this topic further next week and show you how to pinpoint the best solution for driving profitable growth.

Mitigate Uncertainty

Across the board for businesses of all sizes, the new norm of 2020 became this: the certainty of uncertainty. In fact, only 31 percent of small and mid-market businesses saw revenue equal to or greater than that before the pandemic. While the challenges ahead look less formidable than at the beginning of the pandemic, successful business leaders cannot afford to let their guard down in 2021.

From the logistics of vaccine distribution and new strains of the coronavirus, to the volatility of economic recovery and the easing of border restrictions, the unknowns ahead can make it a challenge to plan effectively. With this in mind, how do you get the guidance and expertise you need to set your organization up for success?

The answer is not easy, but with the right partner, even unexpected elements can be mitigated and accounted for in your plan for the year ahead. Working with a trusted Traveling Management Company (TMC) removes this item from your to-do list and allows you to focus on other aspects of your business that require your attention.

Protect Your People

The idea that your organization or product is only as good as the people you employ is not a new concept to business leaders. Yet, for companies around the world on a nearly universal scale, 2020 took this simple idiom and managed to unravel a whole host of additional issues regarding talent retention, staff morale, employee wellness, and Duty of Care.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many business leaders to ask this question: How can I ensure that my team has the emotional well-being and support they need to thrive personally and professionally in 2021 and beyond? This is important because actively engaged employees with high levels of well-being are 45 percent more likely than their co-workers to adapt to change.

In the case of employees who traveled frequently pre-pandemic, taking a moment to address this question is particularly important for company leaders. The wide-reaching changes to travel may have affected your top road warriors in a variety ways, including decreased productivity levels, diminished morale, and safety concerns. Your travel policy and risk management tactics can alleviate some of these issues.

Account for Changes in Culture

Company culture is tied closely to people, but the two have distinct differences. While people have individual values, culture is about the shared values that make your business different.

If a potential new employee asked in a job interview about your company culture, would your response today be different from your response pre-pandemic? For many business leaders, the answer is yes. Even if your values have not dramatically changed, the ways in which you deliver or fulfill those values likely have.

For example, more than 90 percent of leaders implemented some form of remote work policy to counter the crisis, even as COVID-19 restrictions have made it more difficult for traveling employees to work remotely in farther flung markets. This push and pull between the two underscores the crux today’s business leaders find themselves in: How do you maintain a strong sense of culture and engagement within the company, without increasing zoom fatigue or putting health and safety at risk? Later on in this series, we will address how communication and traveler experience can help achieve a balanced culture.

Ready to Get Started?

To truly get started recovering from the devastating effects of 2020, company leaders must put strategies in place to jumpstart their travel programs, mitigate uncertainties, and protect people. They must re-imagine their futures, articulate new priorities, and recognize new issues of relevance in order to chart the right path forward.

We’ll dive deeper into these topics over the next few weeks and answer the big picture questions to help you harness the challenges of the past year and transform them into a plan for growth in 2021. Subscribe to our newsletter and stay connected to Direct Travel for the latest news and resources.