Those missing business travel the most are luggage sellers, hotels, and airlines, of course. But those in business, those of us who found ourselves on planes to meetings and events with some regularity are disoriented.

The changes, ones that may be semi-permanent, certainly affect the association sector that we are in along with board directors and their members. Meeting planners whose job descriptions morphed from F & B contracts to learning the fine points of keeping a zoom event lively yearn for a return to the stressful profession they loved.

For reasons of health and expense, nonprofits, both charities and industry groups, have made 2021 budgets with(mostly) no travel at all. They finished 2020 with far less travel expense but it was countered by (sometimes a major) loss of sponsorship income for events.  The major loss for others has been the membership tide drifting out to a sea of disconnected members and donors.

We have work to do … work to reimagine our organizations as we navigate this “turnaround year.” With only a smattering of in-person events or golf tournaments in the second half the year, what shall we do to entice members to engage? A lot of them will not return to travel anytime soon.

You may be someone who has never much-liked business travel keeping you away from family. You’re not alone. Your group has welcomed this travel respite. Others eagerly await a reason to take off with laptops propped on way-too-small- tray tables. I’m somewhere in between. Business travel is just part of the job. Running meetings and events in states far away is a skill set you must have to be in the association management profession. One must have nerves of steel and very high energy.

As often as I could, I extended my stay in a destination city by a day at my own expense, visiting that city’s arts district and museums. I’ve seen dozens over the years and am happy to return to those with updated exhibitions. It is a highly focused day of learning what makes those cities and their creative communities so unique. I particularly seek out folk art galleries. That day also brushes away what may have been days in windowless meeting rooms with fickle air conditioning and gets me walking.

There are parts of travel I do not look forward to with our new health protocols which will be in place far longer than we know. However, I look forward to calling my neighbor AJ who loves to take me to the airport for a few dollars to augment his retirement. I miss his stories as an ex-football coach at our high school.  I miss all the art museums I’ve yet to see but also know that my dog Emma is a happy gal with me home at night.

Vacation travel is predicted to come back first and strongly. But will companies looking at P & L’s be so quick to add back that expense?

Do you secretly miss the business travel?

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