The business travel market is in a quandary over politics – specifically over Brexit and the fallout from new US immigration and travel restrictions. The need for realignments is evident with business travellers and meeting planners gingerly moving forward with plans for 2017 and beyond.
US Border control is asking for details of all trips made to Iran, Iraq and Syria since 2011 when applying for US visas and business travel bookings from the Middle East slumped by 33 per cent in the week following the announcement of the travel ban. Moreover, some trade experts see overt protectionist measures by the Trump administration may affect exports and imports and this may have an additional impact on business travel to the US. However, many are still optimistic, awaiting clear definition of US policies in the weeks to come.
Brexit on the other hand has clearly undermined London’s prime role as the global financial capital. Oil and gas sectors are suffering which will dampen the spirits further but any further rise in petroleum prices could bring equilibrium. If there are any disruptions in international trade relations or realignment of trading blocs, it will take some time for the economies as well as businesses to adapt to the new realities and overseas travel for meetings and trade will respond accordingly.
However, market jitters have been short-lived as the international corporations have suffered shocks in the past such as financial crises and natural disasters and they are expected to have mechanisms in place to remain unmoved. Business travel to the Asia Pacific region as well as regional travel in Asia will get a boost, largely because the most populous countries in the world are China, India and Indonesia with growing economies. That itself is bound to attract travel for business with these nations and among them as well as the intrinsic benefit in organising meetings and events in the region for greater synergy with their existing or potential trading partners and markets.
Incentive travel will continue to be a challenge in the way it is managed for greater impact, efficacy and finally the experiential benefit that must be considered foremost as a motivational tool.
India is making an effort to stabilise from the body blow of demonetisation and restrictive economic policies that could negatively impact GDP for some months. However, Indian businesses have been resilient in the past and there is no reason to believe that they will not steady themselves very soon to resume the upward curve of last year. The profile of the business traveller has also changed with less emphasis on brands and more focus on experience, relevance and value, thus allowing more bang for travellers’ bucks and happier corporate accountants who can now squeeze more trips for less expenditure.
Meetings, too, are likely to coalesce towards regional hubs as short haul travel, homogeneity of the destinations’ cultures and availability of comfort food will make event planners gravitate to a more regional radius. The global impact of US policies or Brexit will be best measured not in the absolute assessment of less or more travel to the USA or UK but by the measurement of the Indian business travel and meetings in the newly demarcated geo-political boundaries.
Those destinations able to offer greater relevance to international trading partners with a meetings industry infrastructure able to offer a diversity of needs will be the beneficiaries.
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