How will COVID-19 Affect Travel in the Consulting Industry?

The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped travel in many professional industries, especially in the field of consulting. A report from Mckinsey & Company noted that US airline capacity declined by 70% in 2020, compared to the previous year. Currently most business travel is completely on hold, but what will happen to travel in the consulting industry once the COVID era ends and things “go back to normal?”

In terms of the corporate world at large, The Wall Street Journal projected that “between 19-36% of all business trips could be eliminated” post-COVID. In large part, this is due to the rapid adaption of the corporate world into a remote, work-from-home-based infrastructure. Bill Gates recently stated that he believed 50% of corporate travel will disappear. The same CNBC report states that “many CFOs who control company budgets don’t see business travel ever returning to the pre-pandemic level.”

But what about the consulting industry in particular? At large MBB firms, consultants usually travel to the client site Monday-Thursday every week. Will that continue to be the case once COVID is over? Or will firms start off with remote work and slowly ramp up to travel every other week, or once a month? At this point in time it is very difficult to tell, as we simply don’t have enough data yet. None of the major consulting firms have released public statements on this issue, and their approaches will likely depend on the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic situation. Most importantly, their approach will depend on the needs of the client—how will clients feel about travel after COVID? All of this could have a significant impact on world of MBB consulting, which could trickle down the entire consulting industry. Another question is whether consultants will work from home more frequently after COVID, and whether any of these changes will impact their work-life balance? Again, it all depends on the client and what they want—will they be able to justify million dollar contracts for a series of zoom calls? We shall find out, sometime in these next few years.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments for some discussion.

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