Has remote work changed the travel landscape?

By Sam Kemmis | NerdWallet

WHILE some workers are returning to the office this year, many others continue to work remotely indefinitely. This seismic upheaval has changed where people live and work and, increasingly, how they travel.

In the first quarter of 2022, nearly 25% of job openings at the top 50,000 companies in the United States and Canada were for permanent remote positions, according to job listing service Ladders. That’s an increase from just 4% before the pandemic.

“It allowed us to extend trips, leave early and work different hours,” says Tampa, Fla.-based credit risk manager Kirsten Reckman, who works remotely. “My boss is very accommodating as long as the job is done.”

Reckmen’s experience reflects a larger trend. One in five travelers plan to do work on the road this summer, according to a report by Deloitte, an international professional services network. Of these so-called “laptop vans”, 4 in 5 plan to extend the length of their trips due to flexible schedules.

The rise of bleisure travel

Remote work has blurred the line between business travel and personal travel. Rather than rarely leaving home for vacations, remote workers can travel anytime. This has the potential to disrupt long-standing travel trends.

“Many travelers who have the opportunity choose to combine remote work with travel to get away from it all while maximizing the PTO”, or paid holidays, explains Mark Crossey, travel expert at Skyscanner, search engine and travel agency. trips. “The works allow people with flexible family and work lives to become ‘half-tourists’ for a time.”

That kind of freedom appeals to Lisa Wickstrom, an Arizona-based mortgage underwriter who now works around the world with just a suitcase.

“I’ve had three weeks of vacation before,” Wickstrom says, “but I never feel like I have to take a vacation because…I’m always on vacation.”

For the travel industry, these nomads offer enormous opportunities. Remote workers can spend significantly more time and money in remote destinations. Still, bleisure travelers don’t fit the typical tourist mould.

“You can’t just go freely everywhere,” says Derek Midkiff, a patent attorney who left San Diego during the pandemic and never looked back. “You live somewhere, but you also work. Someone asks me, ‘Did you do this and that’ and I have to answer, ‘No, I’m working, it’s not like when you’re on vacation.’ »

Travel days change

Before the pandemic, it was expensive to fly on weekends and cheaper on weekdays. All of that could change with remote work.

According to data from Hopper, a travel booking app, the cost of domestic flights on Sundays and Mondays increased by 5.90% and 2.97%, respectively, in 2022 compared to 2019, while the cost of flights on Friday and Saturday fell by 3.04% and 1.60%. It is now cheaper to fly on a Saturday than on a Monday, on average.

Additionally, remote workers can take longer commutes during busy holidays, which smooths out the “peak” of peak travel dates.

“Since 2020, we’ve seen a slight but noticeable shift to Thursday departures for Memorial Day weekend itineraries,” says Google Flights spokesperson Craig Ewer, “which suggests location flexibility has indeed an impact on the behavior of travelers”.

An industry adapts

Many workers have fled big cities during the pandemic, filling suburbs and rural areas. But remote work has changed the calculus more dramatically for some, freeing up budgets to allow for more travel.

“I save over $2,000 a month after taxes living in Florida,” Reckman says. “We travel a lot more because of it.”

A lower cost of living and tax incentives mean more freedom for some remote workers. And some companies see it as a potential boon.

Airbnb, the vacation rental platform, reports that the number of long-term stays (more than 28 days) doubled in the first quarter of 2022 compared to 2019. The company even introduced an “I’m Flexible” search feature. » for travelers who do not need to return to an office on a specific date.

“I found Airbnb to be cheaper and have better rules,” says Midkiff, explaining why he chooses vacation rentals over hotels. “And I like to stay a month to get the discount.”

Remote work is here

No longer constrained by vacation days and returning from a trip on a Monday, remote workers have changed the travel landscape, perhaps for good. As executives continue to ponder plans to return to the office, remote workers are happily sending emails from afar.

“I’m thinking office politics, baby showers, all that stuff,” Wickstrom said with a shudder. “I can’t even imagine doing all that again.”

Picture credits: kramarak | Dreamstime.com

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