Niall Carroll and The Impact of Travel Restrictions on UK-Based Businessesby Fintech News Singapore September 28, 2021
More than a year into the pandemic, businesses are still being affected by restrictions, including those around international travel. While the lifting of many measures has already begun, both the UK and US governments have announced that there will be no changes to their current travel policies in the near future.
Analysts for Barclays recently released a report stating that, “Global mobility directly powered about 10% of global GDP before the pandemic. The damage will not be confined to 2020, but will linger.”
The International Civil Aviation Organization predicts that pre-pandemic air travel isn’t likely to recover until 2026, leaving businesses with an international footprint looking for new ways to adapt in the immediate future.
For Niall Carroll, the founder and Chairman of CG Tech, an investment holding company with a global portfolio, the situation has presented the perfect opportunity to acclimate to a new way of doing business, one where virtual technologies can positively power remote work.
“At the height of travel restrictions, as companies scrambled to figure out how to cope with the transition, the teams across our group were figuring out how to repurpose in-house software we had developed for remote training and adapt it to solve a challenge in remote work,”
As we look to the future, the importance of achieving a balance between remote and in-person connections means the desire to travel remains high.
The problem can easily be seen in the airline industry. While Virgin Atlantic recently got another cash injection of £160 million after a £1.2 billion rescue deal just six months ago, the situation in the UK is dire across the entire travel sector. According to Statista the number of travel business visits by UK residents in 2019 was 8,979,000 and the number of conferences and meetings hosted in the UK was approximately 1.4 million. Activities that effectively disappeared overnight.
As the world begins to slowly reopen, the travel ban which started as a result of a health crisis now seems to be a ‘debacle instigated by governments unable to issue clear guidance’, a sentiment shared in late May by the new head of the global airline industry body IATA, Willie Walsh. Walsh went further, calling out the UK for what he cited as “incredible farcical confusion” created by mixed messaging on travel from the government.
Also in May, airline and travel firm bosses joined in a letter attacking the UK’s “utterly confusing” advice on foreign travel, accusing ministers of “moving the goalposts” and lacking transparency over decisions on safe destinations.
While the travel industry has limited options in terms of carrying on during restrictions, businesses thankfully do not. What has emerged for many leaders in the last 18 months is the absolute necessity to accelerate digital transformation across businesses, reducing a company’s reliance on physical processes. Companies like Zoom, Monday and Microsoft Teams have seen huge jumps in engagement numbers, thanks in large part to work from home mandates. In 2020, Zoom generated $2.6 billion in revenue, a whooping 317 percent increase year-on-year.
But like anything else, video conferencing loses its appeal after a while, with many employees citing “Zoom fatigue” during the pandemic. A phenomenon even the company’s own CEO has recently admitted to experiencing.
“I do have meeting fatigue. I am very tired of it,” Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom confessed to a group of top American CEOs at the Wall Street Journal CEO Summit.
Big corporations are now jumping on the anti-Zoom bandwagon. The new chief executive of Citigroup is introducing “Zoom free Fridays” as well as encouraging people to take holidays in an effort to combat stress and exhaustion among the remote workforce.
Jamie Dimon the CEO and chairman of JP Morgan Chase has also voiced his frustration with Zoom calls and has stated he expects 50 percent of workers to be rotating through offices by July. In defence of his anti-remote stance, Dimon stated he was “brimming with ideas” after a trip to California last year. A feeling he believes you can’t get from a Zoom call.
But taking your standard video call one step further is exactly how Niall Carroll plans on transforming the future of work. CG Tech’s digital technology branch, known as The Virtulab has been coming up with cutting edge technology to help drive productivity and disruption within CG Tech’ subsidiaries. One such in-house solution developed by the team was a digital platform originally used to virtually train oil and gas engineers.
“Our teams soon realised we weren’t alone in needing this specific technology. The software was quickly expanded to cover virtual meetings and remote work, leading to the development of the Virtuworx platform as one of the solutions,”
The proprietary platform uses an avatar-based environment to allow users the ability to move around and interact with one another. It can be custom built to a client’s specifications. Meaning you could be meeting in a state-of-the-art office space, a museum, concert hall or even the moon. The Virtuworx team is quick to point out that the options are only as limited as your imagination.
The benefits of using the platform are also pretty eye-catching, saving users travel time and money whilst simultaneously decreasing their corporate carbon footprint.
“We are a people company,”
explains CG Tech’s Chief Ecosystem Officer Jason English.
“We spend a lot of time with our teams and within our own ecosystem. The pandemic made us rethink this. Virtuworx gave us the ability to stay connected throughout the last year in a meaningful yet totally remote way.”
But it isn’t just CG Tech companies enjoying the advantages of the platform. Virtuworx has been employed by a variety of outside businesses, keen to take on their unique suite of digital solutions. From hosting the world’s first avatar-based TEDx event to creating a bespoke virtual campus for the UN Womenomics Forum, as well as hosting virtual conferences and exhibitions, Virtuworx is proving its mettle by fostering connections and collaborations in the digital age.
As we all attempt to find our way in this new normal, the key will be in discovering the right balance between remote and in-office work. This hybrid model will require a specific set of tools and systems that don’t add stress and can also seamlessly unite the two realms. But the real recovery will be in the speed of businesses and governments aligning, so a return to travel can be hassle-free when needed. Companies like CG Tech and The Virtulab are already powering new technologies that will not only add meaning to remote operations but also ensure there is still room for face-to-face interactions.
Featured image: Niall Carroll, the founder and Chairman of CG Tech