Out With The Old And In With The New
Why A Move To Purposeful Travel
Requires A Shift in Mindset

Since writing a trilogy of blogs for FESTIVE ROAD around our Purposeful Travel Model, I have been hyper-aware of anything in the wider media around Future of Work, Hybrid work models and what comes next…our re-entry into life at large post-covid. And it’s a bit like when you buy a new car. No matter how ambivalent you were before, you suddenly see the same make and model everywhere.

In this next blog in our series, I want to look at the concept of ‘purpose’, where it came from and why we should all adopt a more purposeful approach to travel. In essence, we are challenging you (and the industry) to look at the ‘old view’ of why we travel, and to shed those assumptions that are outdated and no longer relevant. Only then, can we really embrace the purposeful model.

The New Was Here Before…

Discussions around purpose were taking place long before the advent of Covid-19. In a 2018 article on competitive agility[1], Accenture noted that, ‘consumers are no longer making decisions based solely on product selection or price; they’re assessing what a brand says, what it does and what it stands for. They support companies whose brand purpose aligns with their beliefs. And they reject those that don’t’. So, purpose was already infiltrating both our personal and professional lives in the late 2010’s. But don’t be fooled that purpose is just an altruistic endeavour for corporates.  In a Deloitte article entitled ‘Purpose is Everything’, we learned that ‘purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow on average three times faster than their competitors, all the while achieving higher employee and customer satisfaction’[2]. Further, the rise of the ‘BCorp’ shows that a strong commitment to environment and society is a way of demonstrating a competitive advantage whilst leaving a positive impact on the world.

What is a
B Corp?
They are businesses that give as much consideration to their social and environmental impact as they do to their financial returns [3].

Just as a company’s purpose sets out, in the simplest terms, why they exist, purposeful travel should set out why that company and its employees travel for business.

This really is a unique moment in time to stop, re-evaluate and re-align your travel strategy with your company goals. Doing this under normal circumstances is akin to changing the tyre on a car when it is driving at 60mph. But right now, the car is currently stationary so there couldn’t be a better time to pause and re-assess. The risk of not doing this is that your company pivots but your travel programme stands still.

Out With The Old:

Prior to 2020, the default way of meeting was to travel. We travelled more than ever before; the sector accounted for 10.3% of global GDP and supported the livelihoods of 330 million people [4]. Travel was more accessible than ever and business travellers, although they made up a smaller number of passengers (12% of volumes), represented more than 30% of airline revenues, due to a number of factors including later booking, preference for more premium products, and multiple changes.

Travel was, to some, an indicator of not only status but also ‘busyness’. If your company asked you to travel, you typically went. Traveller sentiment, whilst important to the development of a programme, wasn’t really important enough to allow the traveller to challenge the reason for a trip, let alone bring up family considerations, which may mean they did not wish to travel at all.

If I reflect on my early career, I definitely held those outdated values close. Why did I travel? Well, I worked for a ‘travel first’ company – if there was a problem, I jumped on a plane. Travel was a perk of my job. Of course, it was tiring and led me to miss countless celebrations. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t an exciting part of my role. The 4am taxi wake ups, the red-eye flights, the appearances in the pub at closing time, wheelie suitcase in tow. I’m talking about the early 2000s where environmental impact was spoken of, but it was a cause that didn’t yet have teeth.

And in With The New!

So, what has changed and what has Covid-19 got to do with it? The past 12 months have effectively accelerated a number of changes, which were already in progress.

External Drivers accelerating the move to purposeful:
  1. Dispersed Workforce
  2. The voice of the employee – a change in individual desires and the empowerment to share them
  3. Environment – increased concerns regarding sustainability
Virtual First – A Continual Assessment of Demand

At a ‘macro’ level, we are seeing a more dispersed workforce. Companies are deciding what the future of work looks like for their employees and resident, hybrid and fully remote models are being positioned. This change leads to us redefining why we meet and what travel actually means to an organisation.

Swing In Power - Employee Wellbeing and Acknowledgement Of Life Outside Work

In Dropbox’s ‘Virtual First Toolkit [5]’, Dropboxers are encouraged to focus on ‘impact, rather than busyness’, to ‘make time for friends and loved ones’, to ‘stop before you’re spent’ and avoid burnout. This marks a real change in dialogue between employer and employee and the division between home and work life is blurring.

Sustainability At The Core Of Many Organisations

Unlike during other travel downturns, sustainability’s importance has grown, rather than waned. 66% of respondents to a recent ITM survey[1] stated that they are using sustainability as a way to adapt and showcase the value of the travel function and 61% said that they are including sustainability considerations in all RFPs. This is supported by the results of our own FESTIVE ROAD survey to buyers. Last, but by no means least, is the shift in power between employer and employee, particularly in industries facing a talent gap.

We believe that there will be a mindset shift in the future both from a company and employee view as it relates to travel. Rather than viewing travel as a cost centre, companies will view travel as an investment. As organisations reflect on what they have achieved with very limited travel, there is a one-off opportunity to understand the real value behind different trip types. From an employee point of view, for travel to be worth the time away from home, family and friends, there will need to be a clear purpose to the trip, both personally and professionally.

As your company redefines how it will operate in the 2020s, this is the perfect time to keep an eye on the future, engage your stakeholders and assess how travel fits into this evolving model. Are you ready to come on the journey?

Written by Louise Kilgannon, FESTIVE ROAD, UK