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CEOs are dooming business travel - maybe for good

A fleet of aircraft parked in the desert at the Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage Facility in Alice Springs, Australia, has become an evocative symbol of the pandemic's impact on the global aviation industry. Foto: Bloomberg photo by David Gray. Travelers at the Air France-KLM baggage drop and check-in area in Terminal 3 at Orly Airport in Paris on April 9, 2021. Foto: Bloomberg photo by Nathan Laine. From left: Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East, Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith are more optimistic than many industry analysts; Aeroports de Paris CEO Augustin de Romanet (right) is not. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photos by Christopher Goodney, Simon Dawson, Marlene Awaad, Nathan Laine. Foto: Chris Goodney Simon Dawson Marlene Awad Nathan Laine — Bloomberg

Business travel as we've known it is a thing of the past. From Pfizer, Michelin and LG Electronics to HSBC Holdings, Hershey, Invesco and Deutsche Bank, businesses around the world are signaling that innovative new communications tools are making many pre-pandemic-era trips history.

Take Akzo Nobel, Europe's biggest paint maker, for instance. At its Amsterdam headquarters, Chief Executive Officer Thierry Vanlancker has spent the past year watching his manufacturing head, David Prinselaar, flap his arms, madly gesticulate and seemingly talk to himself while "visiting" 124 plants by directing staff with high-definition augmented-reality headgear on factory floors. A task that meant crisscrossing the globe in a plane before is now done in a fraction of the time - and with no jet lag. For Vanlancker, there's no going back...

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