Note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Lisa Buckner, President of Direct Travel’s Central Region. We’ve republished these thoughts below as part of Direct Travel’s ‘Whatever It Takes’ series.
We’re entering a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Corporate travel conversations that abruptly grinded to a halt at the beginning of the outbreak are now resuming with renewed interest and increased safety measures.
The travel industry as a whole shares the cautious optimism of federal officials, and travel management companies (TMCs) have already started strategizing with clients and partners to not lose sight of putting their people first.
Before your travel can resume, you first need to ensure your employees are comfortable and feel safe traveling. Addressing these needs in your travel policy is a great place to start. At Direct Travel, our account managers have been working with clients to create surveys to understand how employees are feeling and what needs to be done in order to prepare them to tackle changing travel norms. This is key to understanding traveler sentiment and the challenges ahead.
Safety, of course, is top of mind. Travel suppliers have stepped up their safety measures, but what sort of personal protection equipment do you plan to offer your travelers? Per CDC and WHO guidelines, virtually all airlines and most US airports are requiring face masks for passengers. Your updated travel policy needs to outline these expectations and make clear what will be covered by the employer.
It’s not only about masks and gloves though, clear communication is one of the strongest lines of defense to prepare your travelers for moving beyond the moment and into the next stage. If you haven’t already, consider scheduling reoccurring internal discussions to talk about next steps and what professional and personal lines of support are necessary to help your employees overcome future barriers to travel.
It’s also essential to stay connected with partners and suppliers in order to understand what services they plan to resume and what elements have changed. I recommend checking out Donna Brokowski’s recent article, The 4 S’s Critical to Resuming Business Travel, for a comprehensive look at this topic. From personal experience, I can share that in Direct Travel’s Central Region we’ve set up client think tank virtual discussions in place of in-person travel forums to talk about the current state of the industry and prepare for the road to recovery. This has proven to be an effective way to connect with travel program managers and gage where they are in the process.
Business travel will not reach pre-pandemic levels overnight, but we expect it to gain momentum as travel restrictions continue to ease around the world and increasingly thorough safety measures are put in place by travel suppliers. Our coronavirus resource hub is being updated with the latest information on such topics, including CDC updates and state quarantine requirements for travelers to help get you safely back on the road. Throughout the rebuilding process of your corporate travel plans, remember what we say at Direct Travel, both in our daily work and are overarching mission statement: We’re all in this together—Whatever It Takes.