Expectations surrounding business travel are changing. In addition to craving more freedom and flexibility, business travelers want to feel like they are making a positive difference and are connected to a deeper purpose while visiting other places for work.
As we examine in a new white paper, Why Business Travel Is the Center of the New Company Culture, there are three types of travel – intentional, inclusive, and regenerative – that reflect ascending cultural values and can bring more meaning to a business trip. Let’s explore how you can weave each of these concepts into your travel program.
What it means: In step with cultural conversations surrounding accessibility and diversity, inclusive travel is about designing experiences, accommodation, and transport options for people of all backgrounds, demographics, and abilities. It means prioritizing safe spaces to enable individual growth and trip goals to be met.
How to incorporate it into your travel program: Building a travel program that meets various dimensions of diversity starts with a deeper understanding of your people and their travel experiences. Meeting directly with travelers of varying races, physical and cognitive abilities, sexual identities, and more is likely to generate a meaningful discussion on what barriers they face and what can be done to address their distinctive needs and desires.
Increasing the percentage of minority-owned and -operated suppliers in your program is another way to make the program more inclusive, as diverse suppliers tend to understand better the unique challenges different travelers encounter and how to support them. To get started, ask your travel management company for guidance on building a more diverse supplier database and if it can help with the vetting process.
Safety is another consideration. As part of the duty of care program, companies should be proactive about protecting traveling employees who may be vulnerable based on the traveler’s risk profile. Instead of singling out one group or individual, consider providing safety training for all travelers that includes information on the issues minority groups may encounter and encouraging anyone concerned about a particular destination to speak privately with a manager or the travel team.
What it means: Taking the concept of low or no impact (associated with sustainable travel and ecotourism) to the next level, regenerative travel aims to create an additive value – leaving a place better than you found it in regards to the local community, economy, and physical environment.
How to incorporate it into your travel program: Regenerative travel is a rising concept in the tourism industry. Going beyond the “do no harm” sustainability concept that’s focused on reducing strain on an ecosystem, regenerative travel aims to take it a step further and repair and revitalize a place by supporting the local community and environment.
So how does business travel enter the equation? You don’t need to be involved in a day-long conservation project to practice regenerative travel – although that may be a good activity as part of a corporate retreat or team-building outing. Regenerative travel can be carried out through conscious, informed decisions throughout a journey.
For example, during a business trip, employees can look at who in the neighborhood might benefit from their financial support and deliberately choose to patronize local shops and restaurants. Travel managers can be sure to include hotels that are making a positive impact on the local community and environment in the program and make it easy for travelers to identify and book such properties. Your company could also partner with a nonprofit organization that aids the communities employees visit most frequently.
Helping traveling employees engage in a foreign culture and create authentic connections with the local people can also produce remarkable results. Even if not making a direct impact on a destination, when an immersive experience penetrates a person’s psyche, it can positively influence their everyday interactions and, in turn, the people and community back home.
What it means: Like inclusive and regenerative travel, intentional travel is travel driven by a purpose – whether that purpose is oriented toward personal/professional enrichment or to social/ecological good. In the context of business travel, the proliferation of virtual collaboration tools has made in-person business trips more optional and thus intentional – creating a deeper connection between planning work trips and achieving business priorities.
How to incorporate it into your program: Before COVID-19, many business trips were approved without a second thought. With the pandemic creating more complexity and forcing us to slow down, there’s been greater scrutiny and reflection surrounding business travel – more thinking that goes into each trip so maximum value is derived. And that’s what intentional travel is all about.
To help drive an intentional travel mindset, managers can help employees dig deeper into the “why” of each trip opportunity to see if it’s a worthy investment of their time and company resources. The answers that come from that work can inform other trip decisions, such as how to get to a destination, where to stay, and how to maximize time on the ground.
Traveling with intention can also yield an opportunity to lean into the company’s corporate values. For instance, taking fewer but longer work trips that serve more than one purpose not only can have a positive impact on the program’s sustainability goals but also give travelers more time to connect to a culture, which may align with the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion principles.
On the whole, companies must shift their business travel mindset from automated to intentional to better relate to these rising employee desires and societal expectations. By adopting policies and programs that reflect more inclusive, regenerative, and intentional travel, organizations can achieve their corporate values and create benefits attractive to potential and current employees.