January 20, 2021
By Hugh Batley
Many HR leaders are quickly adapting their approach to business travel fast and trying to cope with last minute flight changes, and employees getting stranded abroad. Are you currently rethinking your company’s travel programme for 2021?
Business travel 2021 is going to be extremely challenging and HR leaders need to find ways to meet fast-changing legal requirements and keep health and safety for their business travellers paramount – whilst getting their travel schedules going again. Motivating the team is key too, as much of the pleasure in travelling has gone and has been replaced by anxiety and red tape.
Looking back to 2019, travel had been straightforward and for many business travellers, routine and even dull! Prior to the pandemic, we took travel for granted. Most travel was to countries where there were no security or health alerts. Air travel was straight forward with numerous flight options and few hitches.
In 2019 there were only 14 level one health alerts and three higher, level two alerts worldwide (Centre for Disease Control). There was little change in the entry requirements imposed by various governments. The situation changed dramatically with the rapid spread of COVID-19 at the tail-end of the year. And by March 2020, a global pandemic had been declared and much of the world was in lockdown.
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The situation remains an ever-changing one with numerous countries in their 3rd or 4th lockdown. 2021 will be challenging for business travellers and for the HR leaders designing their travel programmes. But slowly, international travel will recover and get back to normal after the pandemic.
There will be interest to restart international business travel especially with different Covid-19 vaccines being tested all over the world. But as the world recovers HR leaders will have to innovate in their travel arrangements to both motivate and keep team memebers safe. An article in Phocuswire.com predicts that –
“2021 will usher in the era of responsible travel. A coalition of players across the industry will increase work to regain the trust of customers, showing that travel can indeed be safe. They will begin to restart business travel in earnest in 2021.”
For people whom travel is essential, HR leaders need to ensure that their health and safety is given paramount importance. It is crucial that they are in possession of all the relevant travel and health documentation before departure. HR leaders need to be ready to give the right and effective support to their team. For example, equipping travellers with health passports, that provides up-to-date contact tracing and health details.
Travellers will be repeatedly asked to produce a valid COVID-19 negative certificate until the vaccine is more widely available. Travellers will have to produce the certificate on the go (issued no more than 72 hours prior to departure), may it be at the hotel or check-in at the arrival airport. Many countries require new arrivals to have a 2nd rapid test completed at the airport too.
“Rapid testing is expected to become more accurate and prevalent, allowing travel and the hospitality industry to continue to reopen. Digital health passports, displaying a traveler’s vaccine or negative test status, along with travel corridors, will emerge as we transition to a new normal in global travel.”- Fiona Ashley, VP, travel marketing, SAP Concur
Flexibility will be key to success, as HR leaders will need to ensure that employees are ready to comply with the changing regulations or rapid test at anytime anyplace. In a recent survey SAP Concur identified business travellers top concerns as being-
‘infecting their families (55%) and getting sick themselves (53%) during a business trip. With travellers now able to practice the health and safety habits they’ve adopted in their daily lives, business travel will feel more feasible’.
To enter Singapore travellers will be able do so through one of its many travel corridors. For example, if you are travelling from Australia to Singapore, your travel programme falls under the Air Travel Pass (see article How to travel under the Air Travel Pass from Australia to Singapore). Or, if you are travelling from China to Singapore you are subjected to the Reciprocal Green Lane or Fast Lane requirements instead (read more here).
Let’s take South Korea as another example. The country began its 3rd wave of COVID-19 and in the 7 days till 15 December, registered 4,063 new cases – an increase of 29.15%. Prior to the 3rd wave, there were no known requirements or medical screening needed. Now, Korea restricted entry and those travelling there for valid reasons must obtain advance arrival permission to board the aircraft. Travellers must have a formal medical certificate presenting a negative result of the PCR test, from an accepted establishment 72hrs before departure.
HR leaders are expected to keep up and help their travellers to be fully compliant with the ever-changing Green Lane rules and requirements. This will likely be the norm throughout 2021. We at TruTrip can help equip you and your travellers with the latest Green Lane requirements around the world.
HR leaders have the responsibility of ‘Duty of Care’ and need to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of their employees at work.
The definition of ‘at work’ means the employee is at work and very importantly – wherever they are working productively. Both domestic and international travel will carry a risk. This will make travel more stressful and will impact their performance and colour their expectations. We at TruTrip can help take that stress away for you.
A company who sends their employees to a ‘high risk country’ would be in breach of their duty, if they did not take all necessary precautions to ensure their employee’s safety and health at all times.
An important point to remember is that should the employee fall ill whilst travelling, it is the company’s responsibility to secure the proper care is given to them them – wherever they may be. Find out more about TruTrip’s travel solutions made just for HR leaders.
No! But the answer is definitely ‘yes’ to cancelling all non-essential travel. After the various lockdowns, everyone knows exactly what defines non-essential travel and that it is kept to zero. The problem for many companies is that travel is a core part of their business and these include those companies dealing with equipment delivery, all types of consultancy, maintenance and support and field engineering.
The other important reason for business travel is that it is key for relationship building – with both domestic and international customers. It is well documented that businesses can win and lose deals on the strength of their sales team. Research studies such as those undertaken by Close 2X, Oxytocin and ROI (Return On Investment) show the strength and value of this bond. Finally, there are also risk mitigation reasons to travel. Many companies are not confident of sourcing mission critical components from a factory that they know little about and have never visited.
‘If the negative impact of travel restrictions on trade is large, one policy response would be to allow exceptions for key personnel at firms that trade large values of goods and services. The coming months will show how firms worldwide respond to being restricted to remote communication with many of their foreign business partners’. – Vox EU
Even with the current problems with travel, there are still several instances where face-to-face meetings remain key. This will be difficult for a HR leaders to resist when competitors are doing so and a case of Business FOMO could develop. Given the productivity challenges posed by the current situation, many business leaders are hesitant to support bureaucratic and time-consuming procedures. This is particularly so because they will be required for many months to come. There is now a need to plan in advance, to be well prepared but in reality, ‘flexibility’ will be the key to successful business trips.
Work with TruTrip for a well-prepared and thought through business travel this year. We have an automated policy application and approvals flows; but has now ‘turbocharged’ with policy options with a COVID-19 restrictions overlay. This is implemented directly into the booking flow. We have the TruTrip restrictions tool with pre-selected rules based on the travel route status, and the status is constantly being reviewed and adjusted in real-time.
We do not have a crystal ball to tell you what the next 12 months will bring, but we know there is going to be lots of change. You never know though and by January 2022 we may even be back to our boring old travel ways! Ending on an optimistic note, this is what theconversation.com has to say about business travel looking forward–
‘Global business travel has largely ground to a halt during the pandemic. Experts have been raising the alarm that this is the death of business travel as we know it…. We want to urge caution here. There have been similar predictions before, and they were proven wrong. The 9/11 attacks had a negative effect on global business travel, for example, but it found its feet several years later. There was a similar downturn and revival in business travel after the global financial crisis of 2007-09.In 2015, the International Air Transport Association found that it takes at least five years for the industry to recover from substantial short-term shocks. But despite those bumps, global airline traffic has shown stable long-term growth since the 1970s. Clearly, the longer the pandemic lasts, the longer the recovery may be, but it will probably come’….
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