Just when we think we have turned a corner and we see green shoots - and green lights - indicating the re-opening of borders and a return to travel, we get hit with another sucker punch, this one coming in the form of the PCR testing debacle.
We saw widespread news reports of Randox test packages (others are available) piled up high at drop off boxes. This delayed results for those wanting to travel or get out of isolation. Did you know, there are seven different actions pre or post travel that require PCR tests, with the price varying depending on who you use.
It is as much, and in some cases more, than the trip itself. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, wrote to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) asking it to consider these issues and investigate the providers.
This is not the travel re-start any of us wanted or indeed expected. We knew the return to travel was not going to be easy, but this latest problem has taken us into another tailspin.
Earlier this year we saw TMCs partnering with test providers such as Randox enabling them to supply discounted test kits to its clients. That was a good move and showed that TMCs were gearing up to make the testing process as simple as possible for business travellers. However, cracks appeared as many travelers discovered that their nearest drop box was an hour’s drive away.
Governments across the world have implemented new policies and processes for anyone to travel in the future. TMCs should now be looking at how to move from booking that seat on that plane to being a professional services provider who is compensated.
TMCs need to help ensure business traveler confidence grows
New protocols and precautions implemented at every stage of the travel journey will change the business travel experience.
Large UK and multinational businesses have announced that travel budgets have been cut for at least the next three years. With smaller budgets, we will see the reasons to travel, the new policy and processes, requiring increased scrutiny. With that, we're likely to see fewer travel bookings, but longer trips with more business being done.
Where employees can go to do business will change as will the requirements that allow a person to enter the country or destination.
According to the Global Business Travel Association’s BTI Outlook the industry will not return to its pre-pandemic levels until around 2025.
Duty of care has moved on and organizations need to have robust up to date systems in place because the rules about PCR requirements, green listed countries and travel requirements will be continuously changing.
Business travelers need up to date information on company policy as well as government rules. Tech solutions such as Travel Radar from Zenmer and Sherpa's API solution, which is used by BA and UA, are able to provide the information travelers need before departure.
This is crucial information of course but educating employees on the country policy and process on arrival and departure is now only a part of the story. Business travelers need to know more. They need a solution that lets them know their company policy and process, their actual travel requirements, which vaccines are accepted and how it is all paid for.
As business travel returns this year and beyond, TMCs will play a key role in helping clients navigate the new normal.
Businesses are expected to keep a close eye on booking behavior to ensure employees are using the right channels. This will enable them to track employees and keep them informed with travel alerts and updates.
There will be an even greater reliance on tech, with AI and automation playing a key role in the future of TMCs and their ability to create better customer experiences.
Business travelers will be even more reliant on industry experts and TMCs will need to ensure that their clients have full confidence in their management services as employees take to the railways and skies once again.
About the author...
Gavin Smith is director of Element