As many countries begin to ease their COVID-19 restrictions, the business travel industry is preparing to meet new and unprecedented challenges. From social distancing to hygiene priorities, the industry must adapt to meet the ‘new normal’ of life in the post COVID-19 environment.
We spoke to four of our supply partners about the ways their organizations were addressing traveling for business in the new normal. Thank you to Delta Air Lines, Nordic Choice Hospitality Group, SIXT Rent a Car, and Enterprise Holdings for taking part.
Need help redesigning your travel management program for the post COVID-19 environment? Download the complete toolkit.
A focus on flexibility
The recent health crisis has increased the demand on the travel industry when it comes to flexibility, including last-minute bookings and trip cancellations. Across airline, car rental, and hotel partners, we’ve seen a number of changes to cancellation policies and fees. Many of our partners, including Delta Air Lines, have provided change fee waivers to help support customers to rebook certain business travel bookings at no extra cost. Along with updates and extensions to cancellation policies to help customers manage their travel in line with national and international bans and restrictions.
To promote flexibility around hotel stays, advanced bookings may be taking a back seat for a while. Nordic Choice, who operates in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and the Baltics, noted that the demand for restricted pre-paid stays was almost down to zero as of April 22nd.
Conversely, an increased popularity in domestic travel — at least in the short-term — has already surfaced at SIXT. They said that while car rental is mainly booked with shorter notice, they can see some positive signs of a return to travel with summer and autumn business travel bookings.
At Egencia, our customers have the power to change their itineraries on the go. The flexibility of cross-device booking means they can update and amend trips across devices, including on the mobile app, anywhere, and anytime. Meanwhile, if corporate travel managers need to juggle cancellations en masse — as was the case during COVID-19 — they can use Egencia Analytics Studio to report on whether transactions have been invoiced or not, across hotel and air with date ranges of up to 90 days. They can also pull reports on booked hotels by cancellation policy to prioritize which to cancel first.
Making health and hygiene a priority at Delta Air Lines
The travel industry's approach to social distancing, health, and hygiene is likely to evolve as a return to business travel continues. Corporate travelers, businesses, and even regional Governments will have new expectations when it comes to factors like physical distancing, crowd avoidance, hygiene, demonstrating health history, and temperature checking.
“Customers will have even higher expectations for clean planes and airport facilities, a task we already embarked on, and will continue implementing beyond COVID-19.”
— Fouad Mehdaoui, Digital agency program manager, Delta Air Lines
US carrier, Delta Air Lines1, has already implemented some changes to allow for no-touch services and social distancing, including:
- Blocking middle seats in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ and Delta Premium Select across all flights while also reducing capacity on each flight to allow for social distancing (50% for First class and 60% for Main Cabin through June 30th, 2020)
- Offering hand sanitizer at various touchpoints, while disinfecting surfaces across the airport experience, with the same level of care given to employee workspaces.
- Redesigning temporary boarding by row back to front of aircraft
- Introduced a plane sanitizing (disinfecting) procedure before every flight, along with the cleaning of tray tables, seat-back entertainment screens, armrests, and seat-back pockets
- Mandating the use of face coverings by passengers and employees
Hygiene control and no-touch facilities
At Nordic Choice, distribution and key account manager, Kari Bente Lehmann, spoke about updates to an already rigorous hygiene regime.
“The safety of our guests and staff is our top priority at all times and health, hygiene, and safety procedures at Nordic Choice Hotels are 100 percent compliant with the National Health Department’s instructions. We’ve had a strategy for several years to develop and implement no-touch services as an option for guests who prefer no face-to-face contact. This includes an app for checking in and out, which features a mobile room key, in addition to check-in stations at the hotels and chat function in hotel rooms for room service, etc.”
— Kari Bente Lehmann, Distribution and key account manager, Nordic Choice Hospitality Group
Enterprise Holdings' rental brands have temporarily modified offerings to include curbside rental transactions. Additionally, it has increased delivery options, at a select number of North American Enterprise Rent-A-Car neighborhood locations, and airports to help get customers on their way while minimizing foot traffic. And at SIXT, they’ve introduced keyless car rental using their Fastlane app.
How might costs be affected?
Right now, it’s too early to tell how costs may be affected by the break in corporate and leisure travel due to COVID-19.
“Currently, the industry has lowered prices; however, based on customer and partner’s feedback, the customer does not make decisions solely because of price. Businesses focus on their employees’ safety and decide on the supplier and products that offer the most safety and security.”
— Petra Schmidt, Director of travel sales international, SIXT
We can predict that business travelers will travel more strategically than ever before. Therefore, their decisions will likely involve weighing up both the requirements and cost of a trip.
At Egencia, because your corporate travel policy is woven directly into the travel management solution, you can encourage compliance, drive positive behaviors, and manage travel spend and traveler safety more effectively. For example, if your business has mandated a specific maximum spend, prioritized flexible cancellations, or turned off routes to high-risk destinations, it will all be visible for the traveler at booking, so it’s easy for them to stay compliant.
Highlighting your preferred choices
Change is happening now. And, no doubt, traveling for business will look different still in another 3-6 months. In general, businesses and their travelers are going to have new expectations of the travel industry when it comes to both health, hygiene, and flexibility and will make choices based on where they’re met best.
Egencia lets you highlight your preferred hotels and carriers. So, if you decide to choose a specific supplier based on their hygiene initiatives, you can then apply your hotel preference in the tool and we will bring them to the top of the search list for your travelers.
Get ready to address the new demands business travel with our complete toolkit to help you explore how to update your policy and travel program.
1.Delta Air Lines Coronavirus Update Center. www.delta.com