Zoom & co ‘could permanently reduce business travel demand’

Commercial airline emissions could fall 38% and study is sceptical that demand for business travel will rebound to 2019 levels
Business aviation, Business class, Business travel

While many businessmen and women would say that the face-to-face meeting can never be replaced, some analysts have said that the rise in online meeting platforms like Zoom could permanently reduce the demand for business travel.

A new study by the Australia Institute has looked at the impact of the crash in demand for air travel and the potential long-term impacts.

One impact, according to Richie Merzian, climate and energy program director at the institute, noted the explosion in online meeting platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study predicts that business travel may not rebound to 2019 levels, given the systemic shift to online conferencing and communication and weakened corporate budgets post-Covid-19.

“With the travel and quarantine restrictions in place, there has been an increased demand for alternative solutions -- services like teleconferencing system Zoom recorded more active users in the first two months of 2020 than in all of 2019,” he said.

“If we can work well together online now, perhaps it will permanently reduce the need for business travel and so [carbon] emissions over the long term.”

International Air Transport Association (IATA) now projects a 38% cut to air travel in 2020 which equates to a decline of 357 million tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions.

“The economic impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry has been no-doubt devastating. Even the three impact scenarios presented in the last month by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) now appear to be optimistic,” said Merzian.

“Australia Institute analysis shows global emissions from aviation in February and the first half of March 2020 are already lower than this time last year. If the cuts to flights announced by Qantas and Virgin continue into spring, it would more than halve annual aviation emissions in Australia.”

He added: “The question remains as to whether Covid-19 pandemic will permanently change our flying habits, given epidemics like Avian flu, MERS and SARS saw the volume of air travel recover within a few short months.

“Given the global nature of the aviation industry, it has its own UN deal outside of the Paris Agreement, to go carbon neutral using 2020 as the baseline year. Governments and airlines have an opportunity to work together to ensure that commitment is maintained throughout the Covid-19 response and recovery.”

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