While COVID-19 has severely affected business travel, a majority of corporate travel teams felt adequately prepared to deal with the pandemic, according to a survey of 125 travel managers responsible for travel programmes around the globe.
Travel management company BCD Travel found that two-thirds of the survey respondents said that their travel programme was ready for the disruption caused by COVID-19, while only 13 percent said they were not prepared. 41 percent reported all business travel being suspended.
In March, only six percent of the business trips planned took place. More than half got cancelled, and a quarter shifted to virtual meetings.
On the other hand, the frequency of virtual meetings is expected to rise:
- 78 percent expect an increase in virtual internal meetings
- 57 percent say the same about virtual external meetings
- 49 percent expect the frequency of virtual conferences and events to go up
When asked for their top travel programme priority, 95 percent of the survey respondents rate duty of care as extremely or very important. This is eight points higher than in a survey conducted in January 2020.
The forecast to restore pre-pandemic levels of business travel is more cautious:
- 62 percent expect this to happen by the end of the year
- 25 percent by the end of 2021
- 10 percent think it will take even longer than that
“When travel bans are lifted and health organisations withdraw their travel warnings, corporations will need to step in and assure travellers of their safety,” said Mike Janssen, Global Chief Operating Officer and Chief Commercial Officer for BCD Travel.
“Although companies will take a fresh look at virtual collaboration strategies, travel will continue to be a critical component to achieve company goals. For instance, to inspect production lines and raw materials, to teach and learn, to foster client relationships and make deals.”
Travel managers should start thinking about how to improve their travel programme for employees who need to travel:
- Provide specific travel advice, personal protection equipment and additional services such as lounge access
- Implement additional pre-trip approvals
- Track all travelling employees and use in-app messaging to update travelers quickly
- Adjust credit card limits for travellers who experience travel disruptions