What can you learn from business travel’s response to COVID-19?

Coronavirus Changes Corporate Travel

Travel managers’ feet have barely hit the ground this year. Following a challenging period that saw business travel managers caught in a cycle of finding corporate travellers, canceling business trips, and refreshing the World Health Organisation website, there’s a lot of information to unpack.

At Egencia, we hosted a series of four webinars with Business Travel News to help companies break down what’s been happening in the industry since the start of COVID-19. We’ve also used these webinars to share information and insights from travel executives, corporate travel managers, and travel providers to help businesses plan their next steps.

In the first session, Egencia President, Ariane Gorin, recapped the crisis’ early stages and the travel industry’s initial response. As Ariane explained, what initially felt like an isolated issue, quickly spun into a global pandemic. Now, as the time for reactive responses feels less pressing, businesses are reflecting and adapting for the future of corporate travel.

Watch the webinar for insights and advice on preparing your travel programme for relaunch.

A customer-centric response

Two-way communication between us, as a travel management company (TMC), and our customer’s travel managers became more vital than ever. We aligned our focus quickly based on customers’ feedback and requests. And we communicated with customers in as many channels as possible to manage and share the ever-running stream of new information.

Internally, we prepped our account managers with daily standups and an internal messaging feed. While externally, we released daily travel manager alerts and continuously updated our Help Center and other sites. The continuous communication doesn’t end here. Things are still changing as the world enters a new phase of travel, and communication will continue to be key moving forward.

Preparing business travellers for the new normal

As corporate travel whirs back into action, and businesses get their travellers back on the road, there are several focuses for travel managers. These three came out top of our list:

  1. Government regulations- these can vary between city, state, country, and mode of transport. Work with your TMC and associated risk management providers to assess risks and inform travellers of regulations
  2. Support duty of care with adoption and compliance- Picture this: You’ve designed your new business travel policies and worked with your TMC to embed them in the booking tool. You’re also using your TMC’s traveller tracking technology to identify where your travellers are going and have been. That’s great, but if you don’t have online adoption, it’s not going to matter. Your travellers won’t see the travel policies, and you can’t track them in an emergency. Now’s the time to encourage programme adoption and stress it’s importance
  3. Keep your contact details updated- Whether new or long-standing, your employees’ contact details can get outdated quickly. Ask your employees to update their contact information as well as their emergency contacts

Is corporate travel still worth it?

Whether you have travellers on the road right now or are considering when to relaunch, it’s the perfect time to take what you’ve learned throughout the COVID-19 crisis and refresh your business travel programme. As travel professionals, we strongly believe in the value of face-to-face meetings, but the facts speak louder. Define how you will set your travel goals and measure ROI to demonstrate what you can achieve with your travel programme.

Managing changes

As Ariane mentioned during the webinar, corporate travel programmes were tested at max capacity in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, with business travellers still on the road, canceled trips, and no planned date for them to return.

We’ve focused much of our recent innovation around supporting travellers and corporate travel managers to deal with these challenges quickly. Including building online forms to help travellers self-cancel travel in order to save time and avoid lengthy waits on the phone.

What next for business travel?

The road to full recovery is not an exact science. Ariane’s closing thoughts were that people will be nervous about travelling again. Corporate travel managers will need to listen to and address their travellers’ anxieties with information and collateral like the pre-travel safety checklist.

Watch the webinar and discover further insights and recommendations to prepare for your business travel programme’s relaunch.