The decline of business travel appears even more pronounced in Europe, with 55% of respondents in the UK and 59% in France saying they won’t be traveling for work ever again.

By contrast, people in India, China, and Brazil are more likely to see business travel in their future. But overall, according to the report, “it’s undeniable now that business travel will never return to a pre-pandemic normal.”

How the pandemic changed business travel

The Morning Consult report doesn’t dive into the reasons for the decline of business travel. But there are a number of good theories about why people are taking fewer business trips—and a few important caveats.

One big reason business travel has lagged behind leisure travel in the wake of the pandemic is that people have adjusted to videoconferencing and hybrid work. Now that we know how much work can get done over Zoom, the benefits of in-person interaction may not always be worth the tradeoffs of flights to see customers and coworkers. “I think about my lost productivity and personal time, my boss’s money and the pollution spewing from my plane,” Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times last year, reflecting on how many of his pre-pandemic business trips now appear unnecessary.

Corporate belt-tightening is also making business trips less prevalent, particularly in the face of high inflation and (possibly overblown) concerns about a recession. Moreover, environmental concerns are making companies less cavalier about the carbon footprint of business travel, according to a recent report from the Global Business Travel Association. And international business travel has been complicated by China’s covid-19 lockdowns and quarantine policies that vary by country.

But companies aren’t shunning business travel entirely. They’re simply being more selective about when, and why, they send workers afield.

A recent New York Times report found that while individual business trips have taken a hit in the wake of the pandemic, companies are still happy to spend on travel to conferences and conventions. Meanwhile, consulting firm AlixPartners says that companies are cutting back on flying workers out for internal meetings and prioritizing face-time with clients instead. Still, AlixPartners predicts that business travel will stay 15-25% below pre-pandemic levels through at least 2025.

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