GM at Corporate Traveller Oz Desai believes travel managers must begin by examining company confidence.
According to the Corporate Traveller State of the Market report, when reviewing business travel programmes in August 2020, 50% of customers already had employees travelling or booking to travel in the immediate future.
The research also indicates that while the average number of business trips per traveller was 6 to 8 per year pre-Covid, forecasted to fall to 3 to 4 trips per annum until 2023.
Andrew Stark, MD for the Flight Centre Travel Group in the Middle East and Africa, explained that although business travellers have an appetite for travel and travel confidence has started increase, they predict that corporate travel will recover to 60% of pre-pandemic levels by June 2022.
“This may sound disheartening, but a slow and steady approach could be a much better long-term strategy and work to keep the industry stable going forward,” he said.
With many people working remotely and subsequently attending virtual meetings, the corporate work is looking forward to conducting meetings face-to-face once again. However, while the desire to get back to in-person meet-ups is strong, the complexity and uncertainty that envelops the post-Covid world are stronger.
“Businesses are encouraged to resume corporate travel by taking a phased approach. The focus needs to be on crafting a comprehensive ‘return to travel’ plan that considers various components,” said Oz Desai, GM at Corporate Traveller.
According to Desai, travel managers must begin by examining company confidence. For example, is the company adequately prepared to get back to travel? Has it been decided what the goals of future corporate travel should be? Are there financial limitations that will dictate how business travel will gradually get back on track?
Travel managers must also examine traveller confidence.
“Even if the company is financially equipped to resume corporate travel, the real question is, are the employees confident enough to do so? Travel managers must go out of their way to establish whether or not their prospective travellers have any concerns relating to travel and work hard to provide peace of mind in this regard,” added Desai.
If company or traveller confidence is lacking, the phased approach to the reintroduction of business travel could prove beneficial. Numerous companies have opted to kick-start domestic travel for a few months before considering getting back to international travel once again.
Others have allowed senior executives to ‘test the waters’ and report back to colleagues regarding their experiences.
“This is a great way in which to help employees feel comfortable about hopping aboard an aeroplane in the near future.
“The main reason many are hesitant to embark on a business trip is because it is impossible to know what to expect. Real-life encounters from trusted members of the company can provide a sense of equanimity,” said Desai.
He said the key is to restore traveller confidence lies in adopting new technologies to aid businesses and corporate travellers in navigating the many changes, challenges, and uncertainties that surround the act of business travel in a post-Covid world.
He said these technologies should be geared towards allowing for optimal planning so that travellers know exactly what to expect at every step. Travel managers will need to coordinate every single business trip in a similar way to planning and overseeing an important corporate event.
Once confidence has been assessed and addressed, travel managers must conduct internal and external reviews before corporate travel can resume.
Furthermore, a consensus should be reached regarding what constitutes essential or permissible travel within the corporation. Should employees be cleared to travel to secure new accounts? Or should corporate travel be reserved for salvaging existing clients who might be considering alternative options with competitors? Perhaps only certain employees should be allowed to resume business travel for the time being?
Desai said the future of corporate travel requires careful, calculated navigation.
“With the right technology, forward-thinking, and support, there shouldn’t be anything stopping local businesses from getting moving once again,” he said.