The spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) has rapidly reshaped the travel industry—temporarily grounding flights, quarantining cruise ships and restricting once open borders. While coronavirus updates continue to change almost daily, the future rebound of travel remains a time-tested certainty.
For travel managers, a slowdown presents a valuable opportunity to reevaluate your program and prepare for the recovery stage and beyond. Whether it’s a growing health scare, a volatile economy or a global military crisis, these steps can help ensure the long-term health of your company’s travel program amidst unstable external conditions.
1. Inventory Current Travel and Potential Waivers
When travel slowdowns are the result of rapid upheaval or growing global instability, start by taking inventory of cancellation policies and waivers being offered. If your employees are not able to use previously booked airfare, enlist the help of your travel management company (TMC) to track unused tickets and monitor airline policies. Both airlines and hotels may provide one-time changes free of fees or offer to extend their cancellation policies beyond the typical window. Check to see if credits and vouchers allow for name changes or remain employee-specific.
2. Solicit Traveler Feedback
During busy travel cycles, it can be challenging to find the time to engage directly with travelers. Use the opportunity presented by a slowdown to have open discussions about your travel program. Ask you travelers:
- What has gone well and what needs to be reconsidered?
- Do you have the flexibility needed for changes or adjustments?
- Have you been included throughout the process at all key points?
- How has current technology kept you connected during your travel?
- Do you feel like your safety, health and security have been prioritized?
3. Evaluate Your Risk Management Protocol
In the case of a crisis, the efficiency of your risk management tools is essential to meeting your Duty of Care objectives. You should know where your travelers are at all times and be able to clearly and quickly communicate the risks they may face—your risk management solutions should be able to cut through the noise with minimal disruption. Carefully gauge which markets your travelers should be visiting, and don’t underestimate the importance of travel alerts and trip briefings. Use our risk management checklist to evaluate whether your protocol addresses these concerns.
4. Update Your Travel Policy
While a drop in travel may cause an initial pause in your program needs, take advantage of the decreased activity to build your travel policy for the future. If the industry has been impacted by a developing concern or new travel restrictions, look for areas in need of updating and allow enough flexibility to address these changes. Amidst a slowdown, consider how guidelines and procedures may have changed:
- What’s the protocol for when a travel emergency arises?
- Have travel restrictions impacted preferred modes of transportation?
- Do your ‘bleisure’ policies need to shift in response to new risks?
- Is additional oversight or guidelines needed for employee travel bookings?
- How are your travelers adapting to new technologies?
5. Analyze Past Performance and Tools
Dig into your past data to determine what was effective before a travel slowdown and how current changes in the industry will impact those successes moving forward. Start by evaluating your travel tech and services stack and make note of the new tools and technologies you’ll need to improve performance. Although a slowdown may affect your current ability to implement new tools or enhanced services, you should be prepared with a staged approach ready to roll out as soon as the industry rebounds.
6. Forecast with Internal Stakeholders
During periods of industry disruption, continue to maintain a future-focused vision to keep your travel program on track. Bring in your TMC for practical advice concerning supplier negotiations and performance forecasting. Consult with internal stakeholders, making sure to include key players like your finance department, HR team, safety or risk manager and travelers. Each group of stakeholders will bring a valuable perspective regarding how changes can be realized to optimize cost-savings, foster compliance and meet Duty of Care goals. Remember to forecast with your company culture in mind in order to maximize employee engagement.
These steps provide an important starting point to help mitigate the effects of a travel slowdown and begin preparing for recovery. Take your travel program one step further by scheduling a complimentary consultation of your travel program.