Road to recovery – Your essential checklist to resuming business travel
Every crisis has its winners. During the coronavirus lockdown, Zoom has attracted up to 300 million videoconferences every single day.
Yet businesses know they need to start travelling again. Signing new customers, looking after existing ones, new product development – all are much harder when companies can’t get out and meet people face to face – even if those faces are covered in a mask. When TravelpoolEurope surveyed 2500 recent travellers among its corporate members’ employees, 36% of respondents considered it essential for their work that they resume travel in the next three months.
But even if the thirst to get back on the road is growing, many challenges block the way to travel resumption. These include:
- Multiple rules and restrictions at national and supplier level.
- The complexity of constant rule changes and international inconsistencies.
- Fear of infection.
- Fear that travel plans could be derailed by fresh virus outbreaks and new restrictions.
“Business travel will come back, and we are already seeing improved demand for domestic meetings towards the end of 2020,” says Søren Schødt, managing director of TravelpoolEurope. “But for the next few months at least companies will have a lot of work to ensure their employees are ready, willing and able start travelling again. More planning will be required than in the past to inspire confidence and make journeys as smooth as possible.”
The planning starts right here. Here is the TravelpoolEurope step-by-step guide to preparing your employees’ return to travel.
Understand government restrictions on travel
There used to be only one important rule for most business trips: remember to bring your passport.
It’s not like that anymore. Countries have introduced requirements specifying which nationalities are allowed to enter, what documentation they must produce (including visas, Covid-19 certificates, proof of essential travel and invitations) and where they are allowed to stay. Some countries still have restrictions on domestic travel as well.
Access to a centralised, reliable and constantly updated source for all this information has therefore become essential. It is one of the key services TravelpoolEurope is providing for its members.
Know the supplier rules
It’s not just governments whose requirements travellers must follow. They also need to understand what suppliers are demanding of them, especially when flying. Nearly all airlines require passengers to wear masks, for example. Airports are also telling passengers to turn up well ahead of departure, so remember to leave earlier. And remember that normal rules haven’t been relaxed – many travellers want to carry hand sanitiser with them but permitted volumes of liquids and gels remain restricted to 100ml.
Learn the smart ways to travel
Make sure you have good advice on the tips and tricks that can make your travellers’ journeys easier and safer. For example, let travellers know which airlines aren’t serving food on board so they can bring their own. Another tip is to enrol travellers into car rental loyalty programmes, which allows them to collect their vehicle from the rental location without having to fill in paperwork at the counter.
Get employees travel-ready
Leave plenty of time to arrange pre-trip certification, such as securing visas and undertaking Covid-19 tests. Make sure you find a way to manage this expense so travellers are not out of pocket.
Review travel policy
This is essential. Make line-by-line changes to your existing document or issue a special supplement for the duration of the pandemic. Changes to policy could include:
- Define what travel is allowed in the current situation and what isn’t. If you decide to allow essential travel only, define clearly what “essential” means.
- Only permit bookings through authorised channels, such as your appointed travel management company and online booking tool.
- Consider pre-trip approval for every booking.
- Allow higher spending limits on travellers’ corporate cards in case of sudden emergency restrictions preventing them from returning home as scheduled.
- Clarify allowable related expenses, such as purchase of personal protective equipment.
Manage employee ability and willingness to travel
This is a sensitive and important issue to discuss with your HR department. How will you handle employees who refuse to travel because of the pandemic? How do you manage employees who should not travel because they are medically vulnerable?
Are business people willing to resume travel?
65% of regular business travellers are willing to travel within Europe, according to a survey of TravelpoolEurope member companies’ travellers conducted in early June 2020. However, only 43% are willing to travel long-haul.
14% said they are willing to use any means of transport. Overall, 71% are prepared to fly, and 71% to take a train, though only 29% will use a bus. For car travel, 78% per cent would drive a private car, while 59% would use a rental car and 62% a taxi.
Only 4% are unwilling to be tested for Covid-19 antibodies so they can travel restriction-free, while 91% are willing to be tested and 5% have already had a test.
Get your traveller communications up to speed
Do you have a tool for reaching travellers quickly in a crisis, such as a company travel app? If you haven’t, organise one fast, perhaps through your TMC or travel risk management provider. Update all traveller contact details, including mobile numbers for them and their families.
Check your insurance
Will your travellers be covered for disruption caused by Covid-19, and are any countries excluded? Verify too that the policy covers expenses for evacuation and medical repatriation.
Make or review contingency plans
Prepare, and test, procedures for who in your organisation will handle emergency situations and who they need to contact (family, embassy, insurer, departments in your company etc.). Draw up special plans for quarantined travellers, including finding them accommodation and providing medical supplies if necessary.
Plan post-trip processes
Make sure travellers understand and follow any quarantine requirements on return from their trip. Consider too whether to place restrictions on when they can return to the office. Inform travellers what they should do if they develop coronavirus symptoms after their trip.
The TravelpoolEurope perspective – Time to assert your travel programme
Many companies have moved in recent years towards a lighter-touch approach to travel policy and allowing more traveller choice.
Those days are over. Only two things matter: duty of care and cost control, in that order. Businesses need to become very controlling of their travellers, with clear rules on what they can and can’t do. Right now the company travel programme is mandatory, not optional. Explain why: it enables you to know where they are and help them at every step in a severely challenging environment.
A more assertive travel programme also means reviewing every aspect of a trip. That starts with the planning phase: at a time when every trip is a logistical challenge and additional cost, employees must provide clear justification for why they need to go.
A professional travel programme also needs professional advisers. At TravelpoolEurope, our members tell us they have never relied so much on our expertise and and established processes to make every business trip a well-protected success. Make sure you too are connected to the best possible external assistance.