Ready to get back to business travel?
It’s the question most top of mind for many travel managers, corporate leadership teams, and Travel Management Companies (TMCs)—all of whom are trying to map out the best path forward for getting business travelers back on the road. While the question is simple on its face, the answer requires a much more nuanced and customized approach.
To help guide businesses through this process, Direct Travel has produced the Back to Business Travel Workbook. The workbook leads travel managers through some of the most important and rapidly changing areas key to safely resuming travel, including program responsiveness, supplier relations, safety & health management, and traveler experience. You can use this blog post as an introductory piece to the workbook or as a preview to share with others in your organization.
Surveying the Landscape
Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March, the benchmarks that travel managers have traditionally used to measure the success of their corporate travel programs have been in constant flux. Prioritizing savings to minimize spend has been countered by maximizing safety, and changes on the supplier side have thrown a wrench into the negotiation process. Now more than ever, the 4 S’s of travel are critical to resuming travel.
While this may be the new normal for the foreseeable future, the good news is that the travel industry has already started to adapt to these changes. According to a recent report by the United Nations World Travel Organization, 22 percent of destinations worldwide have begun easing COVID-19 travel restrictions. Domestically, that number is likely higher, with most states in some phase of reopening, even as plans are paused or adjusted to mitigate the spread.
In order to effectively address the constant change brought by this new normal, you need to frequently pulse check your program. Your program should be calibrated to the moment with flexibility built in for future adjustment. The Back to Business Travel Workbook highlights a series of questions you need to ask yourself to gauge your program’s readiness.
Evaluating Program Strength
Testing the strength of your program in the face of rapid change consists of four key categories, all of which are interconnected in the ways they support travelers and accomplish company objectives. In the workbook, these categories are accompanied by checklists designed to evaluate your program from every angle. The four categories are:
- RESPONSIVENESS – Start by looking at how your program performed at the start of the pandemic to help you prepare for ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks or future crises. This includes your emergency preparedness, organizational effectiveness, and communication capabilities.
- SUPPLIER RELATIONS – While supply is the area travel managers have the least control over during a global crisis, you can still prioritize your preferred supplier partnerships and leverage your corresponding spend. This is applicable for all aspects of your travel supply needs, including air, ground transportation, and lodging.
- SAFETY & HEALTH MANAGEMENT – Arguably the most important category during a global health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, your organization need to prioritize safety and health management strategies in its corporate travel program. This will involve building strong policies and processes, using tools and technology, and fostering employee wellness.
- TRAVELER EXPERIENCE – Pre-pandemic, the term “traveler experience” focused on providing the right level of service and desired amenities to ensure the comfort of your travelers. Now, your travel program must address the communication tools, safety checks, health initiatives, and resources available not only during travel, but pre- and post-trip as well.
Asking Big Picture Questions
Once you’ve evaluated the practical logistics of your travel program’s readiness to resume, take a look at your program through a big picture lens. The workbook offers a guided question and response section to assist you in viewing your program with this mindset. Some of these questions include focusing on the mission-critical objectives for your first six months of travel and applying keys learning from the current crisis to future travel.
As you work through these questions, you may notice program gaps that could challenge your ability to efficiently and safely resume travel. This assessment is key because your road warriors must feel safe and supported before they will be comfortable returning to top markets.
If you’re ready to complete the Back to Business Travel Workbook and take the first step towards starting the recovery process and getting your travelers on the road again, download your copy of the workbook here.