Travelers are ditching their masks and booking trips at a rapidly increasing rate. It appears that most everyone is feeling comfortable with traveling again. But what about business travel recovery?
The pandemic certainly shined a light on the gaps many organizations had in their travel programs. As business travel recovers in equal measure, how should corporate travel managers ensure those gaps are filled? How do corporate travel programs succeed in a post-pandemic world?
The following five recommendations will help you as business travel recovers. Read on to learn how to evaluate your organization’s needs and implement strategies that deliver bona fide business outcomes. Be sure to download the checklist at the end.
1. Identify What “Purposeful Travel” Means for Your Organization
While business travel is recovering, corporate travel programs will forever be changed by how the pandemic forced organizations to evaluate their T&E spend. It appears more forethought is now being given to which business trips are necessary. According to Festive Road, a corporate travel industry think tank who coined the term “purposeful travel”, their model “enables smarter conversation that focuses on where being there in-person will expedite or improve the outcome.”
As road warriors resume their travel routines, many organizations are now requiring that trips have an identified ROI, whether that be driving strategic initiatives, building relationships, or generating revenue. Festive Road created this guide to help corporate travel programs identify how to apply this principle to their organization and travel needs.
2. Review & Update Travel Policies
While there isn’t a “one-size fits all” template for a corporate travel policy, there are best practices everyone should consider. Firstly, travel policies should be adaptable and changeable. This allows corporate travel managers to react with agility when business travel challenges or changes in the industry arise. Additionally, travel managers should take the opportunity the pandemic provided to evaluate and update their policies. Now is the time to explore the following:
- Mandating corporate travel policies
- Whether travelers are utilizing unused tickets first when booking, and if not, how to encourage that
- The possibility of allowing higher classes of service for longer trips
- Partnering with a TMC for policy expertise
- Adding VIP service
This is by no means a comprehensive list. But if you haven’t updated (or even created) your corporate travel policy recently, this guide can help.
3. Educate, Train, & Prepare Travelers for Business Travel Recovery
The pandemic created a measure of uncertainty for business travelers. Some may still feel apprehension or stress as regulations continue to shift from location to location. Travel managers should help their traveling employees understand the following about business travel recovery:
- Reasons behind any new travel policies
- How and why to book within policy
- What the requirements are for each stop on their trip (layovers included)
- What the company’s risk management plan is
- How to receive assistance in an emergency
- How to travel safely and healthfully
- How to prepare for and return from their trips
Providing education and training on your organization’s travel program creates peace of mind for travelers. When travelers understand the full scope of their travels, they feel less stress about their trip’s responsibilities. Additionally, they’re more prepared if they encounter an interruption en route. Most importantly, communicating the full picture of business travel creates a culture of respect.
4. Outline & Communicate Your Risk Management Plan
Having survived the chaos of a global pandemic, corporate travel managers never want to face similar uncertainty. The stress in those first few days of COVID-19 was heightened for many organizations as they did not know exactly where all their travelers were or how to get them home quickly. Conversely, business travelers don’t want to face a similar emergency en route without an understanding of how their company will support them.
Travel managers need to review the technology they have for emergencies and/or fulfilling duty of care. They need to evaluate and measure the risks their travelers face. They also need to make sure they have the tools needed to locate and communicate with every traveler on the road. Lastly, they need make plans and outline protocols for taking care of employees on the road. Now is the time to ensure this is ready, ahead of the next emergency.
5. Update Traveler Profiles for Easier Business Travel Recovery
In the next few months, many business travelers will embark on their first business trip since 2020. In the two years since COVID-19 shut business travel down, a lot of their information may have changed. Travel managers need to proactively ensure that all their travelers have current travel profiles. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Updating credit card numbers and expiration dates
- Adding/updating mobile phone numbers and email addresses
- Including traveler reward numbers
- Verifying trusted traveler program numbers like TSA Precheck and Global Entry
- Checking passport validity
Taking the time now to make sure travelers have current profiles will eliminate potential issues at the time of booking. Additionally, completed and current traveler profiles are essential to carrying out duty of care.
Ultimately, a lot has changed since the pandemic began. Corporate travel managers face a new landscape with new challenges.
Use this checklist and commit to the recommendations above. Doing so will help you and your travelers be prepared and successful for the next chapter of business travel recovery.