Many people appreciate the impact travel can have on expanding the mind, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits it can offer, particularly for business leaders. Here are a few ways travelling around the country and abroad can help you sharpen your skills as a business leader in a way that few other experiences can match.

Sparking Innovative Thinking in a Big Way

In a poll of nearly 600 business and entrepreneurial leaders conducted by the Brightspark Edu-Travel Report, 94% of respondents agreed that being well traveled provides a competitive advantage in the workplace, and 99% agreed that being culturally aware enhances opportunities for success.

The poll also found that travel opens up new horizons and fresh perspectives on the world; fosters an appreciation for diversity and open-mindedness; promotes confidence; and fosters ambition. Cathay Pacific Senior Vice President Americas, Philippe Lacamp, sums it like this: “A well-travelled person is an astute business person. There is perspective gained from international travel that cannot be matched in a classroom or office environment.”

Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, who grew up in Japan until the age of seven, sums it up like this: “Travel changes you and how you see the world. It helps you think big.”

Making New Connections to People, Partners and Ideas

Beyond expanding your mind, travel’s practical benefits for your business are innumerable:

  • Learning trends and best practices. Travelling allows you to break out of your local, regional or national bubble to see how people around the world are doing things that may work with your ventures. It also gives you a firsthand look at the latest international trends in your field or industry.
  • Creating relationships. Even in a world where social media is setting more and more of the parameters, human contact still matters; in a Harvard Business Review study of over 2,000 subscribers, fully 95% said face-to-face meetings were key for building long-term relationships. Travel allows you to meet partners, clients and stakeholders face to face, rather than over the phone or online.
  • Networking. Whether it’s for meetings, conferences or industry events, travel provides invaluable opportunities for networking—again, the personal touch of a handshake, a smile, or an exchange of business cards.
  • Headhunting. Travel also allows you to headhunt international talent that may not have otherwise have known about you or your company. Adding international players to your team diversifies business practices and expands your networking overseas.

Enhancing Skillsets for Leadership

Beyond the practical benefits for your business, travel also allows you to build up a set of essential leadership skills. Here are just a few:

  • Planning. Planning a long trip is a crash course in logistics, HR and budgeting. Reconciling work with leisure needs; mapping out destinations; determining transportation; developing an expense report; handling passports, visas and other documentation; and managing the needs of family members and colleagues are all vital elements of a successful trip. After planning an overseas trip, creating an agenda for your next business meeting will feel like nothing.
  • Time management. Figuring out how much time to spend in each place, how much time to allot for travel to and from venues, and when to leave in order to catch a crucial flight even though your host is insisting you have another drink—what better way than on-the-road to help you refine the way you manage your time in the face of conflicting demands and unpredictable variables?
  • Communication. Language barriers, cultural barriers, legal and regulatory barriers—if there’s ever a time to put your communication skills to the test, it’s in a different country. At the same time, navigating unfamiliar situations hones your patience, tact and diplomacy.
  • Creativity and problem-solving. Necessity is the mother of invention; if you need to get something done without your normal safety net around you, you’ll have to find a way to do it. Needless to say, being able to solve problems and accomplish goals in varying, often unanticipated, circumstances are priceless assets in any business context.

Home Again, Home Again

Journeys are not just about going away to experience something new and different—they’re also about coming home. In this area, too, travel offers an invaluable lesson for the business leader. Taking a break from your office and its familiar culture, routine and people, even for a short while, is refreshing. Returning home, you’ll find yourself armed with new ideas and a fresh perspective on your own business strategies and processes that will reinvigorate you—at least until your next trip.

In this special “ Business Well Travelled” series, Cathay Pacific explores a number of ways to make the most of your time on the road. Discover what #lifewelltravelled means to other business travelers, share your own memorable experiences, and learn about how Cathay Pacific makes business travel more enjoyable.