Bill Gates Says Half of Business Travel to Disappear Even After Pandemic
“My prediction would be that over 50 percent of business travel and over 30 percent of days in the office will go away.”
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates believes that even when the coronavirus pandemic eventually subsides, it will still fundamentally change how people travel and conduct business in the future.
“My prediction would be that over 50 percent of business travel and over 30 percent of days in the office will go away,” the Microsoft co-founder said during the livestreamed New York Times Dealbook conference this week.
Gates added that from now on, businesses will have a “very high threshold” for traveling to conduct in-person meetings.
Like Facebook, Twitter, and other large tech companies, Microsoft has already announced a permanent work-from-home policy for eligible employees. The workers also have the option to choose from a hybrid model in which they can commute to the office on some days.
Gates, who has been warning about the threat of a global pandemic since 2015, noted that he has already held five virtual roundtables this year with pharma executives—meetings that are usually done face-to-face in New York City.
“We will go to the office somewhat, we’ll do some business travel, but dramatically less,” he said.
Airlines in the United States have taken a huge financial hit for much of the year as the ongoing pandemic has caused travelers to cancel or postpone flights.
Compared to last year, domestic air travel is down 62 percent and international air travel 79 percent, according to the industry group Airlines for America.
In a study conducted by the Global Business Travel Association in mid-September, more than 80 percent of respondents said they have canceled most or all business trips this year.
Before the pandemic struck, business travelers accounted for roughly half of U.S. airlines’ total revenue—but only 30 percent of overall flights.
About a third of the nearly fourteen hundred people polled said that they are anticipating that their employers will resume in-person events and conferences in the second quarter of 2021.
In an effort to attract more passengers, airlines have proactively implemented new safety measures, such as requiring face masks when boarding. They have also enhanced their cleaning procedures and blocked some seats onboard to ensure more physical distancing between passengers.
A recent gate-to-gate study conducted by researchers from Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health has concluded that the risk of exposure to coronavirus during flights is extremely low.
“The risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard aircraft (is) below that of other routine activities during the pandemic, such as grocery shopping or eating out,” the study wrote.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.