All Articles Travel Part 4: How to serve return-to-base business travelers

Part 4: How to serve return-to-base business travelers

How to serve return-to-base business travelers

6 min read


Gone are the days of a “typical” work paradigm. Corporate America as we knew it, has shifted and experimented with different models in search of a perfect fit.  CNBC sites that tighter corporate budgets and new ways of virtual working have permanently changed business travel, according to the report titled “Business, but not as usual.” And now, as virtual working has become a norm, reinforcing a sense of company culture and offering opportunities for communication and connection outside the confines of a computer screen are emerging as priorities for many companies.

Enter return-to-base business travel. In a traditional corporate landscape, employees worked mostly onsite and traveled for company business, conferences, trainings, tradeshows, and meetings with clients, manufacturers and anyone who could help bolster business.

In a post-pandemic economy, much of that work is done differently – while employees conduct much of their day-to-day meetings and client interfacing via phone and Zoom, companies are finding that more tangible touchpoints remain important when it comes to maintaining connections internally. As such, they’re increasingly allocating time and budget for return-to-base travel where employees travel to the office or gather at a retreat to maintain a deeper connection within their company.

Key considerations for return-to-base travel

Mark Villalovos, a management consultant for ArroyoWest, LLC and a former marketing director for Disney Stores asserts that proximity to airports and flexible transport services are key. 

“Time-saved commuting is time I can spend with my team on strategy, says Villalovos, noting that he needs hotels to have fast, reliable Wi-Fi, a decent-sized desk, a comfortable chair, and both pronged and USB outlets to get “my recharging on.”

Villalovos values flexible check-in and check-out, a well-equipped business center and meeting rooms for last-minute preps and huddles. “In a perfect world, there’s a rental car service desk at the hotel and a consistent shuttle from the airport to the hotel,” Villalovos says.

According to the Dallas Morning News the notion of what constitutes a business trip has shifted. That said, there’s still great value in being in-person with clients, said Steve Smith CEO of Firehouse, an advertising firm.  A similar sentiment has been shared by Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky who has become a huge fan of fully remote work but still asserts that the most meaningful connections and creative, collaborative work happen in person, that’s why Airbnb is committed to having its employees meet for team gatherings, off-sites, and social events.

Revival of company retreats

Another corporate trend driving more business travel is company retreats which had been put on the backburner during the pandemic.

When considering retreats, companies hope to boost morale, improve communication within and allow colleagues to make more meaningful connections. However, some companies have a hard time justifying the expense. With travel costs skyrocketing and companies tightening their belts, the idea of a company retreat must be carefully considered.

CNBC reports that trips highest on the chopping block include company retreats, trade shows and incentive travel, according to Morning Consult.

“The sheer price tag of a retreat might tempt the finance team into recommending it be skipped, especially if you experience a couple of tough quarters,” explains Mark Villalovos.

To address this, companies should incorporate measurable objectives into their retreats.

“Without clear goals, it’s hard to determine whether the retreat was a success, other than a good vibe gauge, which doesn’t always translate well in board meetings,” adds Villalovos. 

He proposes that the travel sector can assist by offering a Retreat Analytics Dashboard that allows leaders to set goals and track performance metrics during and after the event.  Additionally, Villalovos suggests that the travel industries could offer pre-retreat surveys to all participants as part of their service, collecting anonymous data on team preferences and expectations. This would give leaders actionable insights to plan a more effective retreat, tailored to their team’s needs.

Company retreats are a strategic way to let employees know they are doing amazing work. Showing appreciation and acknowledging strong performance goes a long way and can energize a team. Creating meaningful retreats is an effective way to reenergize a team and punctuate purpose. Many employees nowadays want to feel that their contribution and impact matters.

According to Forbes today’s top talent wants more than a paycheck—they want a purpose.

Effective planning for successful gatherings

There are many things to factor in when planning a successful company retreat or gathering.

One strategy according to Better Team is knowing your team. Cost is also something to keep in mind. Shopping, comparing, and asking for recommendations are helpful tips.

Karin Hurt CEO of  Let’s Grow Leaders shares some great perspective. With corporate retreats and all-hands meetings on the rise, there is a growing need for a variety of activities.

“Leaders are looking for venues that provide new creative ways for their teams to engage with one another, to have some fun,” says Hurt, adding that they are also looking to stretch their budget.  “Think fun over fancy,” she says, adding that the most important priority for these retreats is curating content and connection.  

To assist training leaders in selecting and organizing retreat opportunities, Villalovos proposes the development of a comprehensive “retreat planning portal” by the travel industry. This portal would provide leaders with a range of resources and tools such as retreat venue databases, budget calculators, and event planning templates. By centralizing these resources, the portal would streamline the planning and execution process, saving time and effort for training leaders.

Through the provision of training, resources, and support systems, the travel industry can empower  leaders to plan and execute retreats and on-site gatherings that optimize team productivity, boost morale, and cultivate a positive work culture for return-to-base business travelers.

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