Corporate travel – also known as business travel – refers to any journey undertaken for the purposes of a business. Sales and supplier meetings, networking, training sessions, trade shows and trips between different company locations all fall within the definition, though commuting to and from work is usually not included.
Business travel is a key part of many jobs and plays an important role in strengthening partnerships between suppliers and customers. Even with the growth of teleconferencing technology, face-to-face meetings can make a huge difference to business relationships and drive sales by adding a personal touch that it's difficult to replicate over Skype. In fact, business travel is generally on the rise in the UK; already accounting for an estimated £39 billion in spend in the UK alone, it's forecast to increase by 3.7% a year over the next decade.
Types of Business Travel
In 2017, there were 6.8 million business trips abroad from the UK – the third most common reason for leaving the country after holidays and visits to loved ones. In the same period, 8.8 million people visited the UK for business purposes. Although this was a dip from the previous year's figures, it represents a large boost to the economy, and clearly businesses still see value in conducting corporate travel. The general trend is towards an expansion of business travel.
Of course, not all business travel involves trips overseas. For companies with multiple sites, it's often necessary for people to travel between them regularly. Sales pitches and supplier evaluations are often more effective when conducted in person. Physical deliveries require business travel. In these cases, it's often an expectation that the income raised from these activities will more than compensate for the initial outlay of sending the employees out to other locations.
In many industries, trade shows are very important for keeping up to date with the latest developments and meeting with partners and competitors, as well as advertising a company's products and services to a relevant market. For exhibitors at larger shows, this may require several employees to travel to the show.
Business travel is central to SMEs and larger organisations alike and the amount required varies between companies.
Knowing the Risks
Whilst corporate travel can be beneficial and often enjoyable, it's also one of the riskiest parts of many job roles.
- Irregular hours and unfamiliar surroundings can contribute to fatigue and accidents.
- Road travel over long periods can become dangerous, though proper training in road safety can help.
- Travelling abroad can put employees at greater risk of crime or health issues, depending on their destination.
- Keeping track of employees and making sure they're safe can be more challenging when they're in transit or staying elsewhere. If possible, it can be safer for colleagues to travel together so no-one is left alone for extended periods of time.
Just as for office-based workers, employers have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their staff at all times. Making sure employees are aware of the risks, properly trained in dealing with them and fully supported before, during and after their journey can go a long way towards avoiding any hazards.
Benefits of Corporate Travel
When done correctly, corporate travel can be great – both for the company and for the person travelling.
For the employee, it can be a valuable opportunity to experience different cultures, including the working culture of the place they're visiting. Assignments abroad (or involving lots of locations within the UK) can be an eye-catching addition to their CV, especially if the logistics involved required lots of forward planning. In an increasingly interconnected world, fostering business relationships with colleagues, customers and suppliers in a different part of the world can be a huge bonus.
It's increasingly common for members of staff to use annual leave to extend their stay and spend the extra days exploring a new place without having to pay for their flights. An estimated 80% of Millennial workers have considered taking this option. For people whose family obligations allow, this can be a major perk of the job.
On the business side, face-to-face meetings can be very effective in securing new business. Many people are more likely to trust someone who they've met in person, and for some larger contracts it can be a requirement before any paperwork is signed. Though it can be costly, corporate travel is often a huge benefit to new and existing business relationships.