During the pandemic, many businesses turned to Zoom (or a similar tool) as a replacement for corporate travel. Now that the world is opening back up again, travel is once again a possibility – and this leads to many companies wondering whether Zoom is a feasible replacement for corporate travel for the long term.

Harvard University Says Zoom Will Not Replace Business Travel

A recent report from Harvard University succinctly answers that question by saying that Zoom will not replace business travel. The report acknowledges that there is a time and a place for video calls. However, that time and place fall short of being a viable replacement for business travel.

Business Travel Spreads “Knowhow”: One of the main reasons that Harvard feels business travel will continue is how it spreads “knowhow” which is not codified knowledge and information that you can find in books, algorithms, graphs, or computer files. Instead, it is knowledge that is exclusive the human brain. Harvard says that this knowhow has to be transferred slowly between humans- and in order to move that knowhow to others, humans have to move. Practically, this means that people have to move to spread knowhow.

Business Travel Has a Positive Global Impact: The other main point cited by report is the positive impact of business travel on global economies. Harvard analyzed payment data from Mastercard. The university’s team found that business travel positively affected the GDP in the destination country as well as the origin country.


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Economic Implications of Not Having Business Travel

To provide an example of the economic implications of not having business travel, the Harvard University researchers looked at what would happen if Australian companies stopped using international corporate travel – which is already a reality to a large extent, as the country has, at the time of writing, strict travel bans and closed borders. It also looked at New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Harvard stated most countries would face serious economic consequences should corporate travel cease and be replaced by Zoom.

Specific Figures as Examples: Using Australia as a use case, it is also worth noting that Harvard found that 0.09% of the world’s total GDP comes from Australian corporate travelers going abroad. This puts the country’s economic impact from travel just behind Singapore and China. Without any corporate travel, this figure could disappear.

Australia also has measurable benefits from corporate travel. Harvard analysts found that with international borders open, Australia has a larger share of the inbound corporate travel market than expected – this is based on its population size. Harvard analysts compared the current size of the country’s economy versus what it would be if it had a more proportional number of corporate visits to its population. For those proportional figures, Harvard looked at the rest of the world. The result? Australia’s economy is 9.6% larger than proportional business travel numbers would have it – Australia’s economy benefits significantly from continued business traveling.

The Takeaway

The Harvard research makes it clear that the global economy relies heavily on corporate travel. It also helps businesses and people share ideas and knowledge. Companies should not be hesitant to send employees on business travel, as long as they take proper precautions. By doing their part to return business travel to normal levels, (using the right corporate travel management tools in the process), these companies can indeed help the economy.