COVID-19 has shaken the future of business travel to the core, and the return trip is fraught with uncertainties
By: Jack Riepe
Prelude: The most exquisite Chinese meal covered the table. It was the first week in January, 2020, and I was a dinner guest of an accomplished Chinese chef. My host, a lady in her mid-70s, was a stickler for authenticity, and she made a monthly trip from rural New Jersey to Queens, NY, to meet with her family and to get exotic ingredients that came in mysterious packets and jars. The meal was a tapestry of flavors, aromas and textures, each a delight to the palate.
This kind lady withstood my effusive admiration, then told me her most recent venture to Queens would be her last “for a long while.” Travelers returning from China were reporting a strange new illness that was ravaging one particular province. She thought returning to Queens might be too dangerous.
That was how I first learned of COVID-19, the biggest story in the history of business travel – a story I shrugged off with a smile.
Two Questions There are two questions facing the business travel industry today: A) When will business travel and leisure travel spending return to pre-COVID-19 levels? And B) when will the business travel industry return to “normal”?