illusions the corporate travel industry might have held of a smooth and steady
return to business travel post-COVID-19 will have dissipated by now.
we’re seeing great variation in the rate of return to business travel by
region, by industry and by type of trip.
companies have OK’d domestic travel but halted international travel for the
rest of the year. Other organizations are looking to government restrictions
for a lead, which means staying on top of varied responses from open borders,
to select travel corridors, to mandatory quarantines, to the ban of travelers
from certain regions or countries.
also a broad spectrum of individual traveler sentiment, with some road warriors
raring to get back in the air and others still uncomfortable with the idea of
traveling for the foreseeable future.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
is to say that in the current environment, nobody can pinpoint with any
certainty what travel volumes will look like, though predictions are available
via resources like BCG's Travel Recovery Insights Portal and J.P. Morgan research.
more certain is that as business travel resumes, three things will likely be
top of mind priorities for every organization when it comes to business travel:
- Cost management
- Risk management
- Change management
three-legged stool, each consideration is critical. Eliminate one of the “legs”
and the stool won’t work.
Neglect cost, risk or change management and you can
expect substantial issues to crop up in your travel program, or at worst, your
travel program may simply fall over.
each so essential in a COVID-19 environment?
Cost management. When it comes to costs, it’s all
relative. It’s fine to focus on the relative cost of one fare to another in
normal times. But most organizations will
be returning from a near-zero-dollar spend on travel. That means every proposed
trip and every expenditure to go along with it will now be scrutinized like
never before - and compared to zero, everything looks costly. Understanding
spend against budget, in real-time, is key to making this work.
Risk management. This part of the equation needs less
explanation - traveler well-being is absolutely top of mind for most
organizations and with the risk of getting sick, getting those around you sick
or getting stranded in a country or region should infection numbers suddenly
spike, managing those risks to ensure traveler well-being and duty of
care are at the core of the must-haves to get people moving again safely.
Change management. Everyone will have had a bit of forced
change management as a result of the pandemic, and there will continue to be significant
impacts moving forward. Travelers will be navigating a much more unpredictable
landscape of schedule changes and disruptions, and this means that programs
will have to do whatever they can to adapt to both support travelers and ensure
the company’s spend is looked after. Cancelled air tickets and credits which
proved to be such a headache early on in this crisis need to continue to be
effectively tracked and used as much as possible.
these three requirements is a fundamental prerequisite for corporate travel to
be booked through a managed sales channel. Flights or hotels booked directly on
airline or supplier websites make it almost impossible for organizations to
effectively and efficiently address cost, risk or change management.
travel policy compliance and adoption of online booking tools has therefore
never been more important. So, what should corporate travel managers consider
as they begin to modify travel policies and ready themselves for business
travel to return?
- Determine how trip authorizations will be granted. This can be assigned based on trip
parameters. For instance, while low-risk travel such as domestic trips can
follow a standard authorization process, high-risk or international travel
could require multiple approvers such as regional leaders or human resources to
- Monitor high-risk zones to restrict travel to those
areas. Work with
your risk management provider and OBT to see if it’s possible to deactivate
booking requests to specific airports, cities or countries, and reactivate them
as conditions return to acceptable levels for travel.
- Review traveler tracking capabilities to identify
potential risks. Contact your travel management company to get a refresher on
their traveler booking technology and/or what is available through your OBT. As
conditions change rapidly around the globe, make sure to monitor any travelers
heading into potentially risky areas that may have been safe when the booking
was originally made.
- Stay on top of supplier health and safety measures
to communicate to travelers. Airlines across the globe are increasing booking flexibility
and putting processes in place such as greater seat spacing, enhanced cleaning
measures and health screenings, among others. Follow up with your TMC and OBT
to see what information is available to help travelers make the best choice and
to feel safe and protected when they fly.
- Maximize the use of airline credits. The cascade of unused airline credits as a
result of canceled flights have been a well-documented issue facing travel managers. Ask your OBT
about the ability to incorporate those credits into the online booking flow to
easily apply unused tickets and credits for the next booking and reduce the
risk of lost fares.
organizations across the globe begin to send employees traveling again, cost
management, risk management and change management are going to be essential to
consider now and in the future.
Taking some of the steps outlined above can
help travel managers address these considerations effectively and efficiently.
About the author...
Darrin Grafton is co-founder and chief executive officer of Serko.