Business travel: what can you do to be ready post-pandemic?
Right now, for businesses, the focus is rightly on keeping employees safe. We need to flatten the curve and prevent the coronavirus spreading.
Everyone is adapting to a more digitised world, from digital doctors to remote learning and working. Naturally, there have been travel bans, and as the coronavirus continues to spread, business and corporate travel is now non-existent.
Survival for businesses depends on a lot of factors - agility, resilience, cash reserves, sensible borrowing, and the role of government in bailing out groups such as airlines. However, there are still steps business leaders can take to ensure that you have a successful business trip in the future.
This is important across the whole business, but you can’t underestimate the importance of communication during COVID-19. For worldwide businesses, you 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 high risk. Do you have an internal messaging or communications platform? Do you need to look at automating updates across your workforce? Now many of us are working remotely, these are the types of questions we all need to be asking.
Check your documents are up to date
This might seem basic, but it’s essential to know where you stand with all your travel documents. You might want to log expiry dates and automate any renewal reminders and check with all your offices to see what steps you might need to take.
For instance, knowing that your passport will expire in a few months can help you plan ahead for the costs of renewing it when the time comes.
Have you earned rewards?
Have a quick look through your travel points and the miles you've earned. These expire, so check to ensure you don't lose the rewards that can earn you extra benefits like a free hotel night. Many loyalty reward incentives have their own policies, so it's a good idea to check the requirements of the ones you use the most.
If you are lucky enough to have banked up lots of rewards, then this can come into your future planning to save on costs down the line.
Be smart with your budgeting
During this pandemic, many companies across the globe will have experienced some sort of financial impact. Business travel often accounts for a reasonable chunk of an 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 maximise the value of each and every trip. Can you gain the same value and benefit from video conferencing?
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.
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, you can gain access to travel information and insights adapted to your travel needs across different geographies.
Getting business back on track and keeping employees safe is a top priority for all leaders, and access to useful data can be our greatest asset during this time. It will enable you to make better decisions in relation to employee travel before, during and after a crisis.
Duty of care and a new normal
When the current pandemic is over, which it will be at some point, businesses will need to travel and the industry will bounce back very quickly. One thing that will be impacted is the newfound focus on employee health, and businesses will be taking more responsibility for this.
It may be that travel managers will have to include a full COVID or Health Programme for all business travellers. Employees should be more sensitive to safety protocols, insurance, better hygiene and more efficient and safer booking experiences, including paperless online booking and self-check-in services.
We are living in uncertain times and it’s possible that a new standard of health certification, perhaps a certificate of COVID-19 immunity, could be rolled out to maintain trust in businesses and ensure safety.
Whether that means investing in courses, providing new guidelines, or just prioritising employee well-being, business travellers will be safer than ever going forward.
The impact of this pandemic will undoubtedly reshape how we live and work. 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?
This article was contributed by Paul Stewart, Founder of My Baggage.