There’s a formula that’s been doing the rounds online. Corporate confidence + traveller confidence x countries with limited travel restrictions = travel demand. It’s an idea that we hope will be put to the test very soon. But, as we wait for things to right themselves, what can we be doing to prepare for the 'new normal' in business travel?
Even though most of the world’s passenger aircraft are parked up on runways, awaiting the restart of the global economy, now is the time that we should all be preparing for what the future of business travel will look like, post-lockdown.
Of course, we don’t have a crystal ball – if only we had – so we cannot provide the sort of definitive answers to the questions many of you may have. However, we have a responsibility to look forward positively and to anticipate what short-, medium- and long-term implications the COVID-19 pandemic may have for your company’s travel.
What can we do to prepare for a post-Covid-19 world?
Plan, plan, plan. Firstly, you’ll want to consider bringing together your company’s stakeholders to discuss how your travel programme might look for the coming months, once borders start to open up.
Your finance team will be looking closely at costs, HR will be considering duty of care, traveller well-being and safety. Questions will be asked by employees – is it safe to travel? Do I need to travel? Can I use technology instead of attending face-to face meetings? What processes are in place to keep me safe? All of these questions will need to be answered to restore traveller confidence.
What might ‘business as usual’ look like?
Be aware that employees may have concerns about returning to ‘business as usual‘, particularly if their job role includes travel abroad. Companies will need to ensure that any updated travel policy is communicated internally, with clarity and empathy.
Remember, the key for a return to something like normal is not just 'will my company permit employee travel?' but also, 'will employees be prepared to travel?'. There’s every chance these two will not be in complete alignment. Furthermore, before embarking on a new programme of business travel, it’s imperative you check your levels of cover with your business travel insurer.
Finally, flexibility will be vital. With the prospect of increased border controls, possible quarantine restrictions and temperature checks at airports, any traveller displaying symptoms of COVID-19 may find all paths to their destination blocked. With this in mind, a move to booking more flexible ticket types, permitting changes and cancellations, could be essential, particularly if a meeting is time critical.
What's the situation with airlines?
Many airlines are currently evaluating the benefit and cost of leaving their middle seats empty. Whether this happens or not, we must all be aware that flying is inevitably going to feel different, at least in the short term: fewer flights with fewer people. However, there is of course a positive to this change, particularly the advantage of more space for those travelling economy.
Conversely, fewer traveller numbers in economy may well lead to a medium-term increase in fares, although in the early stages of recovery, there’s the chance we’ll see airlines push down prices to encourage customers back on board. Whatever the outcome, perhaps it’s time to consider including premium cabins in your policy after lockdown ends, if not already in place.
What about hotel accommodation?
The majority of hotel chains will naturally be working overtime to ensure that the most robust cleaning and disinfecting protocols are in place to welcome back guests. Hotel check-ins, food-and-beverage outlets and leisure facilities will doubtless have to adjust to an infection-conscious and socially distanced traveller. We already know, for instance, that some hotels have been putting these practices into place and more will certainly follow as restrictions ease.
Working with Wexas Travel Management
Although many questions will be left unanswered in the short term, Wexas Travel Management remains in regular contact with suppliers and we’ll continue to keep on top of industry announcements around the easing of border controls as well as the resumption of airline and hotel services when released.
What’s more, with a wealth of industry know-how on our side, coupled with a 24-7 customer service from expert consultants and a suite of innovative technology, we’ll be well placed to get your company moving again, as soon as you’re ready to go.
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