Writer: Joshua Andino
2 min read June 2021— With over 5.5 million vaccine doses administered and over 2.7 million having completed their full regimen, Minnesota stands apart as a state that has set its sights on beating COVID-19 for good. The state’s approach to managing the pandemic was deliberate. Earlier in May, Gov. Tim Walz dropped the state’s mask mandate but it would be another month before the Twin Cities dropped its own mandates. As the state opens up and the cold winter months have given way to a warm summer, Minnesota is looking to stretch its legs. That doesn’t mean that the lessons learned from the pandemic have been forgotten, however. With regard to travel, it seems businesses are looking at a more efficient approach to when they book their tickets. Invest: asked local business leaders across the Twin Cities for their thoughts on the matter. This is what they said.
Charlie Zelle, Chair, Metropolitan Council
Business travel will be the last to recover. I have learned that business is not just the Fortune 500 companies; there are a lot of smaller businesses in the area that are leading the way to travel recovery. Delta has a very large presence here and has put all but a few destinations back online, so they are seeing a faster recovery than anticipated. We will see business travel follow but it will not be the same. Virtual conferences and meetings can be more efficient
Tim Dufault, Principal & CEO, Cuningham Group Architecture
Pre-pandemic, I spent on average two to three days a week on the road. It is an absolute core part of my life. Since that time, I have had one trip to Qatar and that’s it. It’s going to change, travel is not going to go away, but we have realized that sometimes we rely on travel when we do not necessarily need to. We now understand we can do much more by video but it’s still not the best way to do it. The challenge of getting to a place of real focus and real conversation in a meeting format is still going to require being in person. We will certainly focus our travel more on what is important about being together and in person, and we will use Zoom or other platforms like a mechanism to do the more mundane one-hour or two-hour-type of events.
Baillie Parker, Partner, ON Partners
I think it will come back and there will be more in-person meetings. It will slowly pick up this year and normalize next year. The increase will be around 25% by the end of the year.
Scott Hislop, President & Owner, Transworld Business Advisors
I think business travel will be reduced at least 50% because of Zoom and other communication means. But there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting to get deals done. When you’re trying to get something put together with a buyer and a seller, the ability to look at them eye to eye and to see the body language, you just can’t replace those things with electronic means.
Tracy Baglio, President, St. Paul Area Association of Realtors
All of our meetings have been virtual this year and our first in-person meeting was in August. Now that most things are reopening and many people are vaccinated, there are many more conferences getting back on track. It seems the closer to the end of the year, the firmer the plans for conferences. Based on these factors and what we know now, we will probably be back to 60% of normal by August and by the end of the year perhaps around 90%. People seem willing to travel again as long as they feel safe.