By John Charnock, CEO of StressFreeCarRental.com.
All over the world, governments are still working to contain COVID-19. Worldwide lockdown measures and restricted travel have heavily impacted many industries. In particular, the travel industry has been hit hard, and according to reports from some travel agencies, it’s very likely that business travel will not return to normal until 2021.
In this article John Charnock, CEO of StressFreeCarRental.com, takes a look at how corporate travel can adapt, recover, and look to hit the ground running when business returns to the ‘new normal’.
Whilst we try to get COVID-19 under control, everyone is adapting to a more digitized world – from digital doctors to remote learning and working. There have been travel bans, and the majority of business and corporate travel has been on hold.
With the landscape changing daily, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the travel industry. But assuming we do get back to the ‘new normal’, there are steps business leaders can take to ensure a successful business trip in the future.
Assess the risk and duty of care
Businesses will need to travel in the future, and the industry will bounce back very quickly. But before organizing any trips, business managers must conduct a thorough risk assessment to determine whether the travel is necessary. One key factor to consider is the destination; even though a country may have lifted travel restrictions, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s perfectly safe to travel there.
There is also a bigger focus on employee health – and rightly so. As a result, businesses will be taking more responsibility for this. Travel managers should ensure that employees are more aware of safety protocols, better hygiene, and more efficient and safer booking experiences, such as paperless online booking and self-check-in services.
Business managers have to make the health of employees a top priority and take measures to ensure their safety, before considering a business trip. It might be that travel managers will have to include a full COVID or Health Programme for all business travelers.
Great communication is needed
This is important across the whole business in normal times, but we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of communication during COVID-19. Worldwide businesses must encourage regular two-way communication.
Employers will need to know where staff are at all times, in case circumstances change and employees need guidance and advice on where it is safe to travel and where they may still be at risk. Is there an internal messaging or communications platform? Do you need to look at automating updates across your workforce?
Don’t forget to use data
A goal for business leaders is to ensure they are prepared, and not in a position to be without the resources they need to handle another huge global travel disruption.
By harnessing data through third parties, or existing suppliers, businesses can gain access to travel information and insights adapted to the specific travel needs across different countries. Access to data might well be our greatest asset at the moment. It will enable you to make better decisions concerning employee travel before, during and after a crisis.
Maintain international relations
We need international cooperation and coherence about what behaviors will be expected of future business travelers. Contradictory advice will not help contain COVID-19.
If the business travel is international, then there will need to be a common understanding of quarantining at either end of the journey. Travel managers should be proactive and seek confirmation and find a common understanding when it comes to business travel.
What might happen is that there’s a set of globally consistent rules or guidelines on the use of masks, social distancing, and hygiene measures.
Be smart with budgeting
During this pandemic, many businesses across the globe will have experienced some sort of financial impact. Business travel in big businesses can be a large portion of the annual budget.
Are you closing a deal, building a client relationship, or exploring new opportunities? Either way, businesses need to make sure they manage their travel budget wisely to maximize the value of every trip. Can you gain the same value and benefit from video conferencing?
Travel bans have made companies realize maybe those cross-country flights for drinks and dinner don’t deliver economic returns.
As travel bans start to lift, companies can feel confident in asking their employees if the travel is essential, and if not, then they are improving efficiency and costs.
Whether that means investing in courses, providing new guidelines, or just prioritizing employee well-being, business travelers should now be safer than ever going forward.
What we’ve experienced is that COVID-19 has accelerated changes in the way we work and in how we all conduct business. In the future, will it be the default to meet via Zoom or Google Hangouts, and only fly to meet someone if it’s a business emergency or last resort?