By Keren Fanan, Chief Commercial Officer
A freeze on travel and mobility in general was one of the most visible signs of the Covid-19 pandemic. With 86% of corporations reported to institute work from home policies as a short-term measure to ensure employees’ safety, the corporate travel industry predicts a revenue loss of around $810 billion in 2020 alone.
Now that economies are opening up again, after months of lockdown, the need for travel has never been stronger. At the same time, corporations have to adopt the new rules of the game, balancing the necessity of travel with ensuring employees’ safety and protection
Meeting face to face and looking each other in the eye is fundamental to building relationships and doing successful business. Covid-19 introduces new challenges to this way of doing business. We are now facing a defining moment – to reboot the economy, we must get the world moving again. We need to make travellers and employers feel safe, and we must handle the complexity and uncertainty of the post-Covid world. For that, as we learn from our experts, corporations first need to build a return to travel plan. Second, they need to adopt new technologies that can help them navigate this change.
It’s a time of innovation and agility
Long before Covid-19, corporations had to find a balance between employees’ expectations and desire for flexibility and the business’s need to maintain centralised control, a duty of care and cost management.
But now, the way people move around in cities is changing dramatically and businesses are being pushed to optimise costs while ensuring efficient and safe travel for their employees.
This is a new era. For the traveller, there’s more uncertainty. For the travel manager, the stakes are higher too; they now hold the well-being of colleagues in their hands.
It’s a time of innovation and agility; it’s time to adopt technologies to help navigate these challenges. From now on, each trip will be organised like an event, with advice, an itinerary and tracking for every step. It is the only way to guarantee peace of mind.
In our latest webinar, I had the pleasure to host Katie Virtue, a consultant from Festive Road, and Ann Dery, Director of Global Travel and Meetings for S&P Global. We discussed and shared expert advice on what essential business travel looks like in a post-Covid world and what measures businesses have to take in order to get their staff moving again.
Ann Dery, Director at S&P Global: ‘The pandemic has affected our travel programme much like any other global organisation – our programme came to a halt from March 4 when we implemented a companywide travel ban. But as soon as our offices started to re-open, we had clients requesting face-to-face meetings. We had to quickly identify what meets the essential travel framework. We came up with an adaptable global framework that worked for S&P Global.
‘From a personal perspective, Covid-19 has changed my life, again, much like everyone else. As we were instructed to stay at home and people started losing their jobs, I felt like the bottom was falling out of an industry I’ve been a part of for over 20 years. It was destabilizing.’
But Ann didn’t rest on her laurels; it took her only a few days to recover and embrace the new climate. ‘It’s our job to plan and deliver based on the new reality,’ she says. The next step has been to adjust the company’s travel policies to the new normal.
‘Our main objective currently is figuring out a safe way for our employees to get back to travel – which is going to be a slow phased-in plan, but we’ve all become much more agile as a result of the pandemic. We will only resume travel when our employees feel it is safe to do so.’
Is there a substitute for meeting in person?
The most interesting trend we’ve all seen is the acceleration of digitalization and the use of technology for communication. Millions have embraced communications tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The question is, will these behavioral changes in the way we communicate stick even after the pandemic subsides?
It was Hillary Clinton who once said, ‘I could sit in my office and do videoconferences nearly anywhere in the world, but people actually expect you to show up, to make the effort and demonstrate the respect, to sit across the table and look eye-to-eye.’
Can video conferencing replace being in the same room, face to face, reading each other’s micro-expressions, building trust and innovating together?
Ann Dery, Director at S&P Global: ‘The digitization of the meeting environment is happening very quickly, with some great enhancements due to the current situation. This is a great time to take that pause in business to look for innovation; this is a great opportunity, but one that will hopefully never happen again! We can look to improve our programs from a technology perspective, and although technology has been around for decades, I don’t think we’ve leveraged it to its fullest in travel and meetings. And this is the right time to try that.’
Never have our objectives been more aligned
These past months have given us a glimpse of the world at a standstill. And while the post-Covid reality remains unclear for many, we understand that the global economy will benefit significantly from resumption of domestic and international travel. That’s why we’re committed to getting the business world moving again.
Our aim at Gett is to offer the best ground travel experience for our customers. We’re on a mission to organize the world’s best mobility providers in one platform, making the experience so seamless – from booking to riding, invoicing and analytics – that businesses can really focus on what they do best.
Our mobility software helps businesses thrive by empowering people to be their best on the go.
Diving back into business travel? This is how you can prepare adequately
Katie Virtuem Consultant at FESTIVE ROAD
After discussions with travel managers, we’ve noticed that a good portion of them are in that stage of reviewing internally (59%). There is also a smaller percentage of them that haven’t started formal preparations yet (17%), and some are awaiting executive sign off (10%).
If you’re going through your planning stage right now, you might find the following framework information useful. At Festive Road, we’ve amended our pre-COVID managed travel framework to help travel managers understand and build their own permissible travel framework.
How will this travel framework help you? This framework exists to support businesses as they navigate post-COVID business travel. Business travel has changed – whether we like it or not – and we must plan for the future as best we can. The Festive Road permissible travel framework is split into four sections. Each of the sections is structured coherently and is easy to follow.
Once you’ve completed all four sections, you will be able to offer your organisation a knowledgeable definition of what permissive travel looks like for your business. The framework will help you determine whether your travellers are willing and able to go out and whether they have any anxiety, but it also takes into account any government restrictions – be that locally or internationally.
This framework follows a four-step process that is initially led by three elements:
This framework follows a four-step process that is initially led by three elements:
Company Confidence – Traveller Confidence – Government Permission
1. Internal review
In this phase, you complete exercises to understand and link with internal demand. Sections include questions on defining what your company deems ‘permissible travel’ and reviewing the reasons for travel.
Once you have the internal review completed, you can take it for sign-off from your executive sponsor. Talk them through how you’ve defined permissible travel and whether you plan to use any phases when returning to travel. Is there perhaps a domestic phase and then an international one?
3. External review
Talk with partners and suppliers, and look at different sources of information. What sources are your suppliers using? How are travellers going to get more information at point of sale (POS)? You’ll be guided through this section with relevant questions to help you conduct an external review.
The fourth and final process is to operationalise the plan. Don’t forget to obtain feedback from travellers when they return. Did they feel safe when they were travelling? What did they experience from the suppliers that they used?
Visit the FESTIVE ROAD website for more information about creating your own permissible travel framework.
Are you interested in watching our full webinar? Watch it below:
Have you learned any productive and healthy habits over this period? At Gett, we’ve learned at least six things – read them all here.