Businesses globally will always seek to improve their position by developing competitive advantages

The often-cited example of labor costs connected to offshoring is one of the prime competitive advantages found in the ’90s. As India and other countries developed their tech infrastructure, it became commonplace to look to India as both a source of highly educated developers but at a lower cost to domestic alternatives.

Offshoring is still frequently a contentious issue, but some competitive workplace advantages such as emerging management methodologies, offering a wider range of employee benefits and perks, lean and fast-paced product development are now key differentiators both to employees and potential customers.

New competitive advantages emerge

COVID-19 has and is having profound impacts on corporate travel and that the forced flexibility of working from home has widespread proof of increased productivity; research from USA today and LinkedIn shows that 71% of respondents cited increased productivity from commuting, 61% from distractions in the office, and 39% from fewer meetings.

Organizations that embrace flexible working are likely to gain an advantage over their industry peers by adopting and supporting a more adaptable work-life balance.

We must be cognizant though that those working from home have had a chance to build intra-company relationships; favors and assistance in the office are far more easily asked from and given to those that we know well. People are a social species and whilst we may be able to maintain existing relationships well remotely, building new ones may prove to be far more difficult.

Business travel is an advantage

Building and nurturing personal relationships have always been the bedrock of long-term inter-company deal-making.

It’s this social aspect of human nature, an urge to connect with people that will drive the recovery of business travel.

If deals close faster, deal sizes larger and more upselling and cross-selling occurs with face-to-face sales efforts (lest we forget the dynamics of technical or commercial partnerships)  then there will be an economic advantage to getting our teams back on the road.

Speaking to Michael Baker of Business Travel News, FairFly VP of marketing Chris Ulph said that there could be three phases to corporate travel recovery, “Business-critical travel—C-suite executives meeting with investors or fulfilling legal obligations, for example—back first. Next up would be sales and other travel directly connected to revenue, followed by more general operations”

Companies may be reticent to turn on the taps at once, but as the financial benefits of business travel become tangible, we’ll see a competitive advantage proliferate.

Aircraft supply and consumer demand will also be a factor. Reduced fleet and staff sizes with unpredictable demand, prices will invariably be more volatile but inevitably market mechanisms will tend towards a new equilibrium that yields the highest reward.

A timeframe for ‘normal’

Discussions between New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Australian government striving towards a “coronavirus-free travel corridor” seems to be the most logical way that air travel at scale will resume. Alliances of countries that have a low and controlled transmission rate will seek to open their borders one-by-one and we’ll likely see a trickle effect of routes reopening.

Data modelling such as those conducted by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation may prove to be the key that unlocks the timescales in front of us.