Are you preparing your business travelers for future travel in the wake of COVID-19? It can be daunting to know where to start. Things are changing, and as a travel industry, we're facing ongoing, unprecedented challenges and quickly learning how to approach them safely and with vigilance.
Preparation is everything. With no certainty around when travel will get back to normal, many businesses are planning for how their people will travel in the safest and most protected way in the interim. Egencia is providing support to these businesses and working hard to recognize and respond to their travelers' anxieties and mitigate risk in their corporate travel programs.
We spoke to several corporate travel managers from a variety of our customers across different industries. We asked a series of questions to find out how they were preparing their travel programs and travelers for the future of business travel.
- What actions are you taking to prepare your travel program for future travel?
Updating information: Travel managers want the ability to check who is traveling where and when, so they can immediately reach people if something changes or goes wrong. From auditing travel profiles to encouraging travelers to check their emergency contacts in their Egencia profiles, travel managers have been prioritizing traveler information updates.
"We're updating travel profiles with emergency contacts and making sure all information is accurate. We're also in the process of sorting through unused travel credits to see which ones were affected by COVID-19. And we're determining what will be considered essential travel."
— Whitni Willmore, travel manager at Engineered Structures, Inc.
Communication: Companies have surveyed frequent travelers to understand how comfortable they are to resume travel and find out what they need to feel more confident. In partnership with their Egencia Account Managers, many businesses have also started to hold training and information sessions regarding future travel.
Defining essential travel: Depending on the nature of the organization, it may be that nearly all travel is essential, in specific services roles, for example. For most corporate travel managers however, defining essential travel will hinge more on who is traveling, what the clients' needs are, and where the traveler is heading.
Unused ticket management: Understanding unused tickets and travel credits — and how they can be used — was important to most companies.
- Are you adapting your corporate travel policies? If so, how?
Rolling out essential travel rules: Many businesses are working diligently to define what essential travel looks like for them. Once companies determine this, the rules can be built into the corporate travel policies, displayed in search results on the Egencia travel management solution, and updated as necessary as travel post COVID-19 evolves.
“We’re beginning to dive into the following: What is the cost beyond the cost of travel, the time involved, impact on the environment, scheduling availability etc. We’re looking to make sure we’re being efficient with travel on all fronts to ensure that our company is successful (and profitable)."
— Whitni Willmore, travel manager at Engineered Structures, Inc.
Updating advanced booking and short-notice travel: Typically, advanced booking tends to be cheaper, and many companies encourage it under normal circumstances. In the current climate, several of our customers are shortening the booking windows to allow for more flexibility in the lead up to travel.
Frequent communication: As a travel management company (TMC), we’ve increased our communication frequency with business travelers to keep them informed of new updates. Several of our customers have said they now expect the same from their travelers, and they'll be encouraging travelers to touch base regularly.
"We will be adapting a new travel protocol and requiring travelers to touch base on a more consistent basis should an emergency arise."
— Irene Lavell, senior executive assistant at Merritt Woodwork
Restrictions: Our business travel management solution allows travel managers to block travel to specific destinations or on certain carriers easily. Many of our customers said they're focusing on this and have been referring to the official country and region-specific travel information to keep restrictions in place where necessary.
Approvals: Several customers have added new approvals to support safe travel. For example, setting more stringent approvals for travel to high-risk destinations. In normal circumstances, approval processes aren’t ideal, but in the current climate they can help mitigate and manage travel risk.
- How do you plan to support travelers before and after business travel?
Following guidelines: Every corporate travel manager we spoke to said they would be following CDC guidelines and keeping up with current travel warnings and country, state, and region-specific travel bans, restrictions, and requirements.
Creating traveler packs, including PPE: One of our customers said they were discussing how to send out traveler packs that would include personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a mask, gloves, sanitizer, and wipes. This pack will consist of a tip sheet on how to approach new cleanliness requirements from airlines, car rentals, rail companies, and hotels.
Self-quarantine: Most companies are working through self-quarantine specifics and closely following the list of travel bans and requirements per destination. Understanding the quarantine requirements of each destination will also help inform decisions about essential travel.
- What tools or support would help as you're working through these updates and changes?
Across the board, our customers felt support was the most important in three key areas.
- Leveraging unused tickets and credits
- Identifying which airports are affected and reviewing state and country guidelines
- Understanding how to prepare travelers for a business trip
- What do you and your travelers look forward to the most about being back on the road?
Overwhelmingly, our customers said they were really looking forward to making in-person connections. Again and again, corporate travel managers told us the best thing would be to "see and speak to clients, vendors, and colleagues face-to-face."
Get the help you need. We get it. Nothing beats an in-person connection. And until things go back to how they were, we're here to support our customers and help them successfully navigate the new business travel landscape. Trying to find a TMC that can support travel safety, help alleviate traveler anxiety, and give you a better understanding of your program spend? Here's some information on how to find the right TMC.