Many sectors of the economy have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new reality has posed particularly tough challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – the overall business climate index showed the worst result since 2012. Business travel plays an important role in this group of companies. Representatives of companies use them mainly for sales purposes. Restrictions on travel and interpersonal meetings caused by the pandemic have naturally hindered effective use of this option. What changes in business tourism have the last four years brought?
It can be noted that the frequency of business trips has decreased – significantly or to a small extent. This was the answer declared by more than half of SME representatives. Their duration has also shortened. Business managers were twice as likely as before the pandemic to opt for a several-hour trip in a private or company car, forgoing an overnight stay. Reasons that contributed to the change included restrictions on tourist base activities and concern for one’s health. Short-distance travel (up to 100 kilometers) was also chosen at the expense of long-distance travel, which definitely dominated in the pre-pandemic period. Although these figures are not surprising, they illustrate an important process in the development of the regional economy. Small and medium-sized enterprises began to look more often for local business partners, whose representatives could be met with no more than 100 kilometers from their own headquarters.
It is worth noting that among the purposes of travel, priority was given to those on which the company’s growth depended, i.e. sales or getting to know business partners. However, both those managing and working in SMEs significantly reduced or completely stopped traveling to conferences and courses, which they felt were unnecessary. This aspect of work has quickly moved to virtual reality.
Polish entrepreneurs very smoothly – most as early as the first months of 2020 – began to implement new technologies that enabled online training, working and selling remotely. Despite this, business trips remained unchanged as a means of executing business plans for about 30% of small and medium-sized business owners (with a result of 7% for employees of large corporations!). The next few years will allow us to assess the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the structure of business travel in SMEs, and whether the often cheaper remote communication tools were only a temporary replacement.
„The impact of COVID-19 on business travel in the small and medium-sized enterprise sector”, Witold Sadecki, July 2022, Studia Periegetica, ISBN 2658-1736, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/362707571_Wplyw_pandemii_COVID-19_na_podroze_sluzbowe_w_branzy_malych_i_srednich_przedsiebiorstw