UK-based global travel services expert Collinson has found that more than four-fifths of business travelers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia have seen their job affected in some way by a lack of cross-border business travel, with nearly one-third specifically stating that they feel unable to do their job effectively.
It is widely assumed that business travel recovery will be slower than leisure travel recovery because businesses continued to operate during the pandemic without travel.
These new findings highlight the economic importance of cross-border business travel for the GCC, as one-third of business travelers in the UAE and KSA reporting that being unable to travel for business has made them less productive.
According to the survey results, while most business meetings are now held digitally via video call, there is a growing need and desire among a large number of business travelers to resume travel.
Before the pandemic, 31 percent of UAE business travelers expressed concern about the impact of business travel on their mental health, while 42 percent said it had increased their stress levels. According to research conducted during the pandemic, these feelings have intensified, and these areas will now be more critical for businesses and the travel industry to focus on.
80 percent of business travelers in Saudi Arabia and 76 percent in the UAE say they will prioritize their mental health more when traveling in the future than they did before the pandemic. As businesses consider restarting cross-border travel, the challenge remains in making sure employees don’t feel it comes at a cost to their physical and mental health.
However, more than half of UAE (57 percent) and KSA (55 percent) business travelers polled in the pre-pandemic survey said their employer expected them to prioritize keeping travel costs low over their own well-being and safety. In addition, before the pandemic, only 25 percent of UAE and 20 percent of KSA business travelers, were certain that their employer provided a travel risk management (TRM) program and knew how to use it.
“Getting business travel back on the road is going to require a strong focus on ensuring that employees’ wellbeing is prioritized and that there is not just adequate support in place, but that employees clearly understand what is available,” as per the study.