Get biz travel on track
Get biz travel on track
Now that the country is literally getting a shot in the arm, how your company prepares for business travel in 2021 and beyond may very well dictate whether or not your company comes out of this pandemic unscathed.
According to the Global Business Travel Association, “Decision-makers are faced with the gargantuan task of attempting to budget and plan for business travel in 2021. The task is daunting not only because finances are tight, but also because nobody knows what the world is going to look like in six to 12 months from now.”
For business travel, the collateral damage of a worldwide monstrous recession was the lack of “being seen,” which can damage even the strongest relationships. New deals become harder to sign and the global market becomes a very local one. Meanwhile, we are spending a lot of time looking at “travel corridors,” places where you can visit that are safe, that will let you in, that you don’t have to quarantine after visiting, etc. We had clients in the United Kingdom meeting their U.S. counterparts in Bermuda because you can take a COVID-19 test and fly there, then on arrival get tested again.
What we also foresee happening is many businesses will be hunting for opportunities to cut costs, including reducing the funds that are usually reserved for business travel. A better strategy may be to look for your travel management company – or TMC – to assist in keeping travel-related expenses to a minimum. A good TMC knows which fares and rates to book that allow for easy cancellation without incurring massive penalties.
“We had clients in the United Kingdom meeting their U.S. counterparts in Bermuda.”
The things a company relies on with corporate travel, such as airlines, hotels and events, have all been seriously impacted this year. Empty venues are failing, hotels have been brought to their knees, and airlines are crippled. It will take years to return to capacity. We’re already seeing fares increasing on routes as choices of flight have been dramatically reduced.
It’s important to review your travel policies and ways of booking. How many people need to fly to a meeting? Right now, fewer is better, but you still need to be effective. Book with COVID-19 travel guidance in mind. Some states are open to visitors, but only ones that meet their criteria. If in doubt about where you are going, talk to your TMC; don’t just book online for the lower fee. You don’t want to be embroiled in litigation should you send an employee into an unsafe COVID-19 environment where they may get sick, or worse.
The vaccines have arrived, but it’s still likely we will continue to see, at least in the short run, spikes in cases. Still, people will not want to plan in advance. Incentives are usually planned about a year out, although sightseeing may be limited due to social-distancing rules.
Based on data from the Corporate Traveller State of the Market Report, decision-makers need to be focusing on the following:
• Health and hygiene. Guidelines on COVID-19 conduct and what to do if travelers start to feel ill ahead of or during a trip.
• Pre-trip approval. Travel must be deemed essential and permissible before it can take place.
• Business class. Business class will only be accessible by employees of certain levels.
• Journey changes. Keep abreast of information on changes and protocols at airports, accommodation check-in, etc.
• Preferred and COVID-safe suppliers. Have handy a list of suppliers taking COVID-19-related safety seriously. The world has been grounded for about a year. But your business needs to be able to jump back on once the business-travel carousel starts up again. Nobody knows what the future will bring, but one constant is that corporate travel … still has its place when it comes to resuscitating many businesses. n
Franc Jeffrey is CEO of EQ Travel, with offices in Boston, the United Kingdom and Australia.