There are the doomsayers out there predicting corporate travel will never recover to 2019 levels and that a high percentage of meetings and events will remain virtual.
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is probably the most high-profile proponent of this with a downbeat forecast that 50% of business travel will not return.
Of course, it may well suit him and his businesses to support this view.
Then there are those with a more optimistic perspective - the firm believers in the need to get out in the world and meet people face-to-face, especially in the corporate world.
Among this group are airline and hotel leaders who argue that while recovery in corporate travel will take time, it will return.
The respective CEOs of EasyJet, Emirates and United Airlines have all been vocal on the issue. Some even say there could be more business travel driven by the remote working trend.
Whoever is right - and it could end up being a little of both - business travel is going to be different.
A new landscape
More paperwork around COVID-19 testing, longer queues and increased traveler frustration are just a few of the short to medium term pandemic legacies.
Significantly reduced airline capacity, as well as hotel operations from staff shortages, will also contribute to the slower recovery of an industry where spend slumped by more than half in 2020.
The good news is that business travel organizations say travelers are optimistic about the return, with the caveat being as long as it’s a safe one.
Even if the ongoing debacle around testing and vaccine passports is put to one side, travel managers and corporates still have a duty of care to the staff, which means staying on top of restrictions and educating travelers in the most efficient way possible.
Corporate travel policies will need to be updated, perhaps even rewritten, to allow not only for COVID protocols but also the new hybrid way of working.
The thinking is that business travel trips are likely to be less frequent but longer with travelers and their employers shunning the overnight trips for one meeting that were common in the past.
There is also the view that business travel will become more spread out as employees travel to see colleagues or customers who are working from home or away from primary cities.
Airlines, hotels and other businesses around corporate travel will have to adapt and technology will help relieve some of the burden by removing some of the manual processes.
However, the upside of this could benefit the environment.
At a time when travel CEOs are coming under increased pressure to address the industry's carbon footprint, the impact on traditional destinations could be shared out a bit more if travelers are staying for longer and spread out to more second and third cities.
And the travel management community will be smaller although some may argue that the industry is evolving rather than contracting.
Consolidation in the corporate travel space is already happening with recent deals including American Express Global Business Travel announcing its plan to acquire Egencia, TripActions buying Reed & Mackay and Travelperk acquiring NexTravel.
Despite the turmoil, there are encouraging signs of confidence in the segment with investors shelling out significant rounds for companies in recent months, especially the newer breed of TMC such as TripActions and TravelPerks.
These investments continue to highlight the need for corporate travel industry to evolve, a need, further driven by the pandemic, to grasp the opportunities that technology can offer and let go of time-consuming manual processes.
Phocuswright Europe 2021
Niklas Andréen, president and chief operating officer at CWT, and Champa Magesh, president at Trainline For Business at Trainline, will discuss the reinvention of business travel during this year's event.