Does business travel have to be lonely travel?

It is many years, even decades, since the uneducated assumption that air-hosting and pilot lifestyles were only ever full of glamour and fun, fun, fun. As international travel became more commonplace for holiday and business purposes than in the seventies and eighties – we all learned how hard, and often thanklessly, these travel facilitators work. Of course, the 2020 pandemic affected their careers, possibly forever, as much as anyone’s. But identifying the tiresome side to their jet-setting lifestyle is no less important for every other business traveler.

The boredom between flights and meetings

Imagine sleeping in a different bed, in a different hotel, in a different country every day for a month. Yes, there would be an initial buzz of excitement at the new surroundings and the ever-fresh window view to wake up to. But even that would surely wear pretty thin after a while. It is the difference between visiting London, Tokyo or New York as a tourist or working there ten hours a day, five days a week for a decade. Places alone cannot sustain interest indefinitely – but people can.

If the various levels of lockdown and being forced to conduct social and business communication through a computer screen has taught us anything – it is that people matter. And not just people, but face-to-face, real-life, physically visual (even if non-contact) interactions where you can see a smile or read a look of recognition.

In the UK, where I am based, the easing of lockdown has meant we can go out again and see people, albeit within specific guidelines and restrictions. And it has caused a revelation of appreciation for friends and the relationships we have with them. People matter a lot.

Yes, like you, I have been on many business overnighters where all I wanted to do after a long meeting was go to my room, watch some TV and unwind. But there have also been times where the tedium of time between flight, work, eating, work and flying home was too much to bear. And hotel restaurants are often more conveyor belt than social outlet when you are travelling alone. People need people.

The science of social interaction

I would be amazed if you were unfamiliar with the famous statistics about human communication: 55% is body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% the words you use. These numbers come from a study by Professor Albert Mehrabian some fifty years ago and underpin most modern thinking on the subject. Whether you agree with the statistics themselves – the fact remains that we communicate best when we see people in person.

Other studies conclude that touch, such as shaking hands, can increase trust (although applying alcohol-based handwash straight afterwards might diminish the effects these days). It is also clear that seeing people in person gives more subtle clues to another’s true intentions than even the highest definition conference camera. And attention and retention are proven to be significantly higher in real-life conversations than on video calls or by telephone. People are supposed to meet, greet and be together.

What has lockdown done to meeting fellow travelers on business trips?

We conceived the idea for the Travel Buddy App long before any hint of a global pandemic because we recognized that people need to interact. And we also saw that meeting strangers in a safe and platonically social environment while travelling could be awkward or difficult.

Lockdown has reduced business travel, for sure. But it has also shown us just why our App is so important – people matter. So, as normality finds its feet – we invite you to download the App and find some new friends to talk to the next time you travel.

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