The effects of COVID-19 have been felt to varying degrees across industry sectors in all corners of the globe. Business travel, in particular, had an average growth rate of 5.1% annually over 10 consecutive years before the true financial impact of the pandemic could be accounted for in the second quarter of 2020. A sharp decline had been recorded by the end of 2020, according to the Global Business Travel Association – a sobering look into the bleak reality caused by the pandemic.
A year later, in the second quarter of 2021, vaccination programs are now in full swing worldwide. Industry data points to business travel returning in a big way – we are even seeing it in our data. And while virtual meetings have sustained businesses and communications for the better part of 12 months, they’ll never entirely live up to in-person interactions for many reasons. As such, travel managers have begun preparing for the new daily travely in a post-COVID-19 world.
With people expected to resume clocking up more travel miles in the name of their respective organizations soon, here are three key ways to prepare for the return of business travel.
Know your suppliers. Know your data.
Travel managers everywhere are well aware of the challenges of managing different suppliers for multiple events – having so many moving parts complicates coordination. Add in the amalgamation of physical and virtual participants through hybrid meetings on top of much stricter regulations, and difficulty rises.
This makes it crucial to consider the suppliers you partner with carefully. An excellent place to start is checking what measures different suppliers have in place to manage risks arising from COVID-19 when it comes to travel. It should include contingency plans for potential disruptions to normal operations. Cancellation policies are another critical point to address, just in case a last-minute setback requires postponement or revocation of the event.
Flights are known for their arduous nature regarding reliability, getting the best prices, and compliance with constantly changing regulations. Leveraging powerful tools like Oversee provides access to valuable data that streamlines the process of making informed decisions when dealing with suppliers.
Implement a comprehensive health & safety plan.
Health & safety has always been a critical component on the list of priorities for travel managers and events organizers. The advent of COVID-19 has only served to amplify its level of importance. Before re-launching in-person events, you must now:
- Understand COVID-related transmission risks for your event, including your capacity to identify and manage that risk and make informed decisions when managing any risk identified above.
- Develop a detailed pre-event health & safety checklist that addresses all risks and your measures to counteract them – from flights to accommodation and beyond.
- Leverage intel with all relevant stakeholders, including staff and attendees, making sure to specify each group’s roles and responsibilities to ensure a safe event.
Leverage the benefits of hybrid events.
Virtual meetings have indeed played a critical role in helping to keep most organizations operational throughout the pandemic. But even with the world slowly returning to normal, a paradigm shift will see virtual communications continue to maintain a considerable presence post-COVID. For reasons spanning from cost-effectiveness to convenience and sustainability, the past year has laid bare numerous advantages of hosting some events remotely.
As a result, hybrid meetings, which are by no means a new phenomenon, will become more popular than ever before. There is great potential for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) events to be ‘bigger and better’ by catering to various needs while offering the best of both worlds.
Nonetheless, hybrid meetings also introduce new complexities that are associated with practically coordinating two events at the same time. Therefore, it is essential to plan accordingly to maximize this joint approach’s effectiveness.
By carefully considering your supplier partners, taking advantage of the benefits hybrid events offer, and creating a fortified health and safety plan, you’ll be ahead of the game regarding the resumption of business travel – which, according to Oversee data, is already on the increase. There are other effective ways to prepare for the return to business travel in a post-COVID world, but the three methods outlined above provide a solid foundation to build upon.