On May 22, 2020, video conferencing provider Zoom’s market cap peaked at $ 48.2 billion, nearly 17 billion above the cumulative valuation of the five top-selling airline groups in the world, Air France-KLM, United, Lufthansa Group, American Airlines, and Delta. Driven by the “stay at home” mantra, Zoom has created a whopping $ 32.1 billion in value since the beginning of the year.
Now one can argue admirably as to whether this is substantiated in a nine-year-old software company with an annual turnover of $ 622 million or just the opposite worsening of a crisis-ridden capital market. But in any case it is particularly striking that the pandemic is fueling a long-started change in the world of work and travel.
Cutting a new quality
Whether 9/11, Sars, financial crisis or swine flu – in the light of a recession, travel and mobility operations have always been particularly sensitive, but in the end they were always flexible enough to return stronger. The global economic crisis from 2007 also paved the way for more consistent digitization: online travel agencies such as Booking.com and Expedia experienced their final breakthrough. At the same time, the rise of countless travel and mobility challenges began. Uber turned the taxi business to the left and Airbnb is still the largest hotel chain in the world without hotels despite the Covid-19 misalignment. New markets emerged, consumers benefited in many ways.
Thirteen years later, the current pandemic marks an unprecedented turning point in travel, as this time, in addition to potentially historic consumer reluctance, greater structural centrifugal forces are at work.
Spontaneous new work purification
Companies from Beijing to Bielefeld experienced their webcam awakening moment in 2020. Governance and IT statutes were then bent into night and fog campaigns for Zoom, Slack & Co., and server capacities were upgraded. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, whose group is one of the crisis profiteers not only thanks to the team collaboration tool, saw “two years of digital transformation in two months” in the first quarter. In fact, the crisis did not reinvent anything – video conferences with groups and HD resolution already existed in 2010. It only acts as an inescapable catalyst for an adaptation that would have taken years otherwise. Even if everything does not go smoothly by far – the obligatory “Can you see me?” Remains the rule – even technology-remote handshake industries arrange themselves better than expected.
For the recently strengthened business travel market, the “Generation Zoom” is just the forerunner. As soon as the economy shakes, production chains are unraveled and de-globalized. This is likely to be reflected particularly in the important business travel market to Asia. Universities easily teach their MBA attendance courses from the past by video, exhibitions such as the “Canton Fair” in China open purely virtually. Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil is already drumming for the “right to home office” and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg expects half of his workforce to be permanently at his desk by 2030.
In no way can the sociotopic office be squeezed entirely into video. But every day more in this new work sovereignty increases the exit barriers, changes our thinking about distance purchase and thus also the travel work of the desk worker. Meanwhile, with the millennials, for the first time a generation is becoming the most commercially important business travel target group for whom a personal encounter is not the ultimate. If the climate debate that has recently subsided then flares up again, companies should actually cut back on business trips that are not necessary.