Writer: Joshua Andino
2 min read June 2021 — The early phases of the pandemic saw the “COVID-pivot,” where businesses, associations and organizations across the country and in South Florida suddenly had to adopt online and virtual solutions to stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines. Home became the office, and soon enough, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and “Work-from-home” became mainstream phrases, ingrained into the popular psyche by the necessity of an unprecedented year.
It’s hard to stay in-doors in South Florida, however, and the state led the way as one of the first to reopen the economy. With its idyllic weather and open outdoor spaces, businesses adapted and continued to work in the safest and most effective manner for themselves. With the development of the vaccines and clear guidelines from the CDC, it was only a matter of time before people and businesses started traveling again. But has travel returned? The answer seems to be yes, but how much and for specifically business purposes, remains to be seen. Invest: asked local business leaders across South Florida for their thoughts. This is what they said.
Andrew Duffell, President, Research Park at Florida Atlantic University
Right now, we’re not really contemplating travel. Unfortunately, we had planned when we launched Global Ventures to go to Israel and go to Brazil and other places. We’re not planning that at present. We’re doing several virtual meetings with people in all those countries, and the silver lining is that we can do more because it costs less money, takes less time, but it is not the same. We are seeing people come back to the park and holding small meetings on campus. We think we will see more of that as time goes on and more vaccinations roll out. Thankfully, people are still being cautious. Activity is coming back; it’s just evolving. Thankfully, we’ve seen very low rates of infection within the park itself, with very few cases of COVID-19. We’ve had people following the advice and being sensible. Most of our researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators are very well educated and some of them are even in healthcare and working on pandemic relief measures. They understand the science behind it. We take it one day at a time. The university itself has announced that staff will be back in their offices in July 2021 and then all classes will be offered in person in August 2021. Hopefully, come the fall, we will see a more vibrant campus with more students here.
Zach Young, President, Kast Construction
We are back to business as usual in a safe manner. Construction is a people-driven business, and we are the first in a car or on a plane to see a client. For now, we are still doing most of our corporate meetings virtually, but we look forward to that changing soon, as our people love to get together and you can’t build camaraderie and a remarkable culture over zoom.
Hector Torres, Founder & Managing Principal, DLT Global
Like everybody else, business travel has been limited in the past 12 months. That said, it is coming back, though not in the way it was pre-pandemic. I traveled (recently) to Santo Domingo after not traveling for a year and half. There is a feeling though that perhaps in the past we overdid it with business travel because it was something that everybody did. But now just look at the way we are conducting business for this interview: I am in Ft. Lauderdale and you are in Miami and there is no issue whatsoever. We are traveling virtually. What COVID has helped us understand is that the technology has been here, we just have not been using it wisely in terms of efficiency. We have also found that our employees work much more productively when they have those virtual platforms that mean they do not get interrupted as they might in an office environment. Travel for leisure will most probably not change but business travel will most certainly see a change. I do not need or require my asset manager to travel to a project anymore or as often. I find his/her oversight is much more efficient using virtual meetings, project cameras and the basic telephone to monitor and report the outcome. We have yet to see the innovative ideas that will impact the way we travel for business in the same manner that we are just now realizing the changes to our business office occupancy and employee efficiencies.
Adam Tiktin, President & Broker, Tiktin Real Estate Services
I was just at the airport twice in the last two weeks. I am very happy because I got vaccinated, so I am traveling with a lot of other people. Two weeks ago, the Miami airport was the busiest I have ever seen. There had to be 1,000 people waiting at security. The plane seemed to be full. Business travel is not going to be what it was because people can Zoom from all over the country now and many people do not need to travel for business as much as they used to. But for me personally, I think it’s going to be back to where it was in no time.
Flavio Hojda, Managing Director, Safra National Bank
We are following the situation in Latin America very closely to resume our business trips. Unfortunately, most of those countries are still showing very high levels of COVID 19 infections. Our business requires our team to travel. This is the best way for them to grow and acquire new business and new clients. They need to travel. I do think we have to find a balance to accommodate the new protocols but travel will pick up again. I do believe the second half will be a different story.
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