It’s been a bumpy two years for the travel industry.
The novel coronavirus swept the globe to devastating effect in early 2020, causing travel bans and emergency measures to be put in place worldwide in order to face the emerging crisis.
It was a fall from grace that few saw coming.
This was especially the case with the business travel end of the industry, where we saw a global drop of around 61% as revenue crashed from $1.29 trillion in 2019 to $504 billion in 2020.
You would be forgiven for struggling to imagine travel ever regaining its past glory and splendor.
But as we slowly but surely emerge from the abyss of lockdowns and restrictions (for now), businesses are looking to put new measures in place that can help to regain some form of normalcy.
With a mixture of a speedy vaccination process, added with new safety measures being put in place to restrict the spread of the virus, there is a willingness of both employees and employers to resume business travel.
In fact, a promising 84% of business travelers have said that they would be willing to get back on the road if the proper safety measures and precautions are put in place.
There are a number of factors that could explain this willingness to travel for work once more - with most of them being human factors. Be it a readiness to see old colleagues and customers again, a want for social interactions such as dinners and drinks, or purely a desire to return to a form of normal life.
But as workers once again take to the skies, seas, and roads, companies are under pressure to make sure that their employees are as safe as possible.
The coronavirus has added a whole new dimension to the complications of booking travel.
Not only do you have to make sure that their trip is as seamless as possible, you also have to make sure that they have all the necessary documents, safety measures, and medical advice needed to safely complete their trip.
With so much to consider, it can be overwhelming for any travel manager - no matter their experience or know-how.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the best practices of managing travel in the era of Covid and give you a detailed and resourceful guide on what you need to take into consideration.
How to manage business travel in a post-COVID-19 world
For any travel manager that thought their job was too complicated pre-2019, they are most likely wishing things were now that simple.
Nowadays, things can change at a moment’s notice. That trip you booked three months ago could suddenly be turned on its head and have to be canceled and rescheduled in the blink of an eye.
In this new era of booking business travel, there are many areas that travel managers should pay extra attention to:
It’s impossible to survive the rigors of booking travel nowadays if you’re not flexible.
Mass cancellations and disruptions are constantly happening across all industries. Meaning events, showcases, and conventions are all vulnerable to change.
Ensuring that your travel plans and arrangements are as flexible as possible is vital. Being able to future-proof your plans to the best of your ability gives you the strongest defense possible against unforeseen circumstances or emergencies.
In early 2020, most US-based companies’ travel budgets dropped by 90% or more. And in 2020, German companies reduced business trips by a staggering 80% compared to 2019. While this is to be expected in a world that can’t travel, now that business travel is creeping towards a return - many businesses are yet to figure out what the future holds.
Several companies have successfully utilized video conferencing software such as Skype or Zoom. Meaning there is less pressure to restart business trips.
As we are in a period of uncertainty and unprecedented circumstances, businesses are reluctant to put a significant amount of their budget towards something that may collapse again if there is another spike.
So travel managers across the country may have a much tighter budget than usual, meaning they have to pay extra attention to the best possible deals.
Health and safety
While health and safety was always of the utmost importance for companies, there is an extra layer of caution that has to be considered.
The global health crisis has made prioritizing employee wellbeing far more complicated. Making sure your employees are protected against the virus is paramount.
Whether it’s by making sure they are properly equipped with masks and sanitizer, making sure they are fully vaccinated and protected, or purely by making sure they are as informed on the risks as possible.
However, health and safety isn’t purely a physical worry. The pandemic has taken a mental toll on millions of people across the world.
With people losing their jobs, losing loved ones, and having their world turned upside down, there are many who may be understandably reluctant to return to a “normal” environment.
It’s therefore important to make certain that your employees are willing and mentally able to travel during the pandemic. It’s important to listen to and understand any concerns that your employees may have, and make sure they aren’t forced to do something they aren’t comfortable with.
How to equip your employees for in-person events
As the country slowly opens back up, we are seeing the return of in-person meetings, conferences, and panels.
After almost two years of attending events via a webcam, many people are looking forward to getting back to in-person opportunities and socializing with like-minded business people.
But while events are being held once again, they are opening with a new set of regulations in place to ensure the safety of all those involved.
While there isn’t a blanket one-size-fits-all approach across every event, there are some basic protocols that most places will have to follow that you and your employees should be aware of:
There have been several tests and studies that have outlined the importance of wearing masks as a preventive measure, with one such study showing that face coverings were associated with a 70% reduced risk of infection.
While most events will have a supply of masks, it’s a good idea for your employees to bring their own.
Vaccination or testing proof
A common requirement for getting into business conferences is either proof of being fully vaccinated or a recent negative test.
The European Comission website has all the information you’ll need on either booking in a test for or booking a vaccination.
It’s important to note that there are far higher hygiene standards for events to limit the spread of the virus. This affects the time between events as the space has to be thoroughly cleaned.
There are now a number of sanitizing stations that attendees are required to use as well as one-way systems that are put in place to limit the contact between people.
There are also limiting factors that are put in place to adhere to rules on capacity. Things such as meals and drinks are often absent, and you are often required to book seats at a panel due to a reduced capacity.
Global travel advice
Each country has a different set of rules and requirements. While many countries share similar ideas on how to protect themselves, there are some nations that have a different approach to travel.
We’ve pulled together governmental travel advice from the most often visited countries so you can be fully up to date on the safest, most informed way to travel.
We hope we provided you with some handy tips on how to get you and your employees ready to hit the road, seas and skies again.
Did you know we're hosting an expert debate on the now & future of business travel?
Sign up for our debate on June 22, 2022 from 12:00 PM - 01:00 PM CEST to glean valuable insights.
We’ll be joined by:
- Meghan Smith: Strategic Partnership Manager, AirPlus
- Judith Huisman: Co-Founder, Meetingselect
- Jochem Hemink: Head of Sales Shipping, ATPI
And, that’s not all, stay tuned for more interesting speakers!