Returning to business travel is becoming easier and safer so long as you prepare well. Read this essential guide to getting your people moving again
Business travel is resuming. “We are seeing bookings picking up again,” says Mads Møller Mulvad, membership and sourcing manager for TravelpoolEurope. “There is already more travel than three months ago and we expect further growth by the end of 2020. There is definitely an appetite among companies to resume trips and our surveying of travellers shows that if they are reluctant to travel it’s because of logistical challenges like quarantines, not fears about infection.”
Going on a business trip is more feasible than it might look. Some countries, such as Finland, are closed to most leisure travel but remain open to corporate travellers if they can produce evidence they are visiting for work. Many of the other barriers to mobility are also surmountable as long as travellers leave time for additional preparations and work with reliable travel companies to obtain accurate advice, says Møller Mulvad.
So what should you do to get your people ready to travel again? Here’s our guide to what you and your employees should think about before, during and after a trip.
Source high-quality information
Check you have access to a reliable and detailed specialist business travel information portal that is regularly updated. Your travel management company may offer a portal like this, or ask your travel risk consultancy if you are contracted with one.
Important information for travel planning includes national entry requirements specifically for business travellers (often different than for leisure travellers) and rules for travel. For example, while all airlines now require passengers to wear masks, France goes further by requiring surgical masks on commercial flights.
Create a mandatory booking and pre-trip approval process
Make it a strict rule that employees book trips through official company channels – usually a combination of a corporate self-booking tool plus telephone reservations with the TMC. There are four important reasons:
Look after vulnerable employees
Let your employees know it is acceptable for them to refuse to travel if they are worried about the risk of coronavirus infection. Communicate this position to all employees – not just those you believe are in vulnerable categories – to avoid breaking any laws relating to discrimination or data protection.
Make provision for personal protective equipment
Decide whether you will directly equip travellers with masks, gloves and disinfectant materials or allow them to buy these items themselves and reclaim on expenses. Air and rail passengers should carry several masks in case of loss or damage and because it is recommended to change the mask being worn every few hours.
Consider travel options that may be safer or more convenient
Be aware that some of these options greatly increase the cost. Options include:
Make virus testing available to travellers
Many countries currently allow entry only to visitors with a negative coronavirus test certificate issued up to either 48 or 72 hours earlier. In Denmark, the insurance assistance organisation SOS International is offering tests to any member of the public with only a 15-minute wait for results.
Airlines are also looking at testing. Alitalia is trialling flights only available to passengers with negative certificates. Some airlines, including Lufthansa and Finnair, are introducing testing services for passengers, so consider these options too.
Keep lines of communication open for travellers
Make sure they know exactly who to contact for assistance if problems arise, including illness or shutting of borders. Develop a clear understanding of local health provision at destinations your employees visit.
Keep travellers updated with tips for smart, safe travel
Plan your eating options
For example, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is piloting an Order & Collect system for its food and drink outlets.
Use self-service wherever you can
Use online check-in and/or check-out facilities as much as possible at airports and hotels.
Stay safe on aircraft
Open air vents to maximum and keep your distance from other passengers on disembarkation.
Carry more regular medication than normal
This is a precaution against unexepcted border closures.
Create workplace quarantine rules
Consider banning travellers from attending shared work spaces for a minimum period after coming back from a foreign trip. Ideally, organise a new coronavirus test immediately on return.
Make standby medical arrangements
Ensure returning travellers have fast access to treatment if they develop coronavirus symptoms.
Monitor mental health
Some employees may find business travel stressful at this time. Check that your travellers are coping and be prepare to support them if they are unhappy.
The TravelpoolEurope perspective – It’s not business as usual, but it is business as unusual
Travelling for business now is not the same as before coronavirus, but it is still possible to take trips with a few extra preparations. There is a second important benefit to introducing additional assistance and precautions. Employees will feel much more confident if they see you have made careful arrangements to support their journey. Look after your travellers and they will look after your business.