Most countries are now on lockdown, and while we’ll eventually head towards recovery, the COVID-19 pandemic will leave a lasting impact on our lives. Of course it’ll also leave a lasting impact on business travel, in both negative and positive ways. There are many unknown but it’s easy to know that the norm will have changed.
As business travel is facing one of its biggest crises ever, what will the “new normal” look like and how will organisations and employees around the world adapt to it? Here is some food for thought on the future of business travel and how it’s not all bad.
It will take time to reach the new norm
Travel, in general, will take a long time to return to how it used to be before COVID-19. This will impact business travel too. We’ll all have to get used to what we call a new normal. We can look to China, where restrictions have just been lifted, for a glimpse of what’s to come in other countries. According to a recent study by Trip.com (China’s largest online travel agency), 61% of respondents will be ready to travel again by August. 77% said they would travel domestically. Most of them mentioned choosing close by trips, so they could return home quickly if required.
If Europe and the Americas follow a similar trend, people will not want to travel again before October 2020. As each country reaches the peak of the pandemic at a different rate, recovery will also be very uneven. Many Chinese companies are monitoring their employees’ temperature daily and we should expect similar behaviour when employees start returning to work in the rest of the world, especially prior to business trips. The threat of a second wave of infection is also weighting on China at the moment. The rest of the world is watching and if this happens, will be weary to lift restrictions. It’s not hard to imagine constant travel bans for people with a fever or a cough, to avoid contagion of any kind. This would create challenges around monitoring and enforcing such bans.
Business travel will be less common but more mindful
Employees might have gotten used to conference calls and realised that some meetings aren’t necessary in person. Some businesses might have adapted much better than they expected and decide to keep some of the changes they’ve put in place.
Depending on personal circumstances, some people might feel anxious about travelling.
Business travel will undeniably be different, but it will pick up slowly. The new normal for business travel will be a more mindful, thought-out way of travelling. In the long run, it will benefit both employees and employers, leading to a better life-balance for the former and a better return on investment for the later. As more thinking goes into business travel, many companies will benefit from travel and expenses management solutions such as Rydoo, to help them track company-wide trends and make many of the processes associated with business travel easier.
Domestic travel will grow and international travel will decline
As countries enter recovery at a different speed, national travel will resume before anyone thinks about stepping on a plane. Many will favour travelling by car, feeling safer from germs. Mileage reimbursement will be on the rise for many companies. Tools like Rydoo will help streamline the process of claiming expenses like mileage for employees. It’ll also make reimbursement and keeping an eye on spending easy for companies.
Train travel will start to pick-up before air travel. Mainland Europe, with its rail network connecting many countries, will see more business travel than the Americas, where the rail network isn’t as developed and people often need to cover longer distances and opt for flying. Leisure travellers will choose their own countries for holidays rather than flying abroad but business travel is driven by needs rather than wants. Many business travelers will choose to drive or to travel by train rather than by air, taking longer to get to their destinations. This will increase costs and time spent in transit but might make for a more enjoyable experience for employees who aren’t keen on security checks, queues and waiting around. Travelling by train will also allow employees to work using WIFI, increasing productivity.
Did you know that a comprehensive T&E policy is essencial to survive the changes of the "new normal"?
We will have to jump through new hoops
Extra rules related to travelling might be imposed by governments around the world. Scientists across the globe are working on a vaccination for COVID-19. If they succeed, will everyone be expected to get vaccinated? If so, travellers might need to show their vaccination certificate along with their passports. If this happens, this could have a real impact in the Schengen Area, where there is currently no border control. Airports will have to re-organise their infrastructure. While we can expect some airports to implement an efficient system straight away, some airports will struggle and travellers will face long queues as a result.
Organisations will want more travel support for their employees
Bookings, transport, hotels and transfers via different platforms might have worked for most employees in the past. But anyone who had to cancel multiple bookings in the past few months might have been left frustrated by a time- consuming and inefficient process. Will those who spent hours on the phone to cancel each element of a work trip demand a different system in the future? Driven by their employees’ needs, some organisations might decide to try a more efficient way of dealing with business travel, such as an integrated service like Rydoo, where you get 24/7 assistance.
Organisations will want to keep a closer eye on business travel
Having to repatriate an employee is something that can happen at any time, outside of the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of organisations supported their employees in getting back home from a business trip when countries implemented lockdown procedures. They will now be more aware of the logistics involved. Using a travel booking tool like Rydoo will allow organisations to have control over their employees’ bookings. This means they’ll know where they are at any given time, down to which flight/hotel/car reservations they’ve made. This is very difficult when employees book without a company-wide corporate booking tool. With all this information easily at hand, organisations can come up with an action plan much quicker. If many employees needed to be repatriated at the same time, this would also save invaluable time and stress.
Business travel has come to a standstill but it will slowly resume. No one knows when but we know that like many other sectors, it will have grown stronger and more adaptable. New restrictions will come into place and new habits will be formed. The needs and wants of business travelers will be different. Organisations’ outlook on business travel will also evolve and many will seek more support, information and insight, ideally at the touch of a button. Organisations can get one step ahead by starting to prepare for these changes now.