After an initial stall to travel recovery the first quarter of the year, growing traveler confidence and changes to COVID-19 restrictions have reshaped the travel forecast ahead. As the world strives to adjust to a new normal, policies and travel requirements continue to morph yielding the need for a more informed traveler and optimized planning from travel managers.
The recent surge in corporate travel brings big implications to the surface for the industry and important considerations for travelers. Business travel, a revenue generator for companies, remains a vital activity for connecting global communities and travelers alike. Looking forward, it is important to evaluate the travel recovery period and evolving restrictions to understand what it means for both your organization and your travelers.
Evolving Travel Restrictions
Arguably the most impactful travel decision since the onset of the pandemic, the ending of pre-departure COVID test requirements took effect June 12. The test requirement created obstacles to business travel resuming but has recently lifted for international arrival to the U.S. ─ a major relief for airlines and travelers. This is the latest in a post-pandemic recovery period that has been characterized by ever-evolving travel restrictions, including the easing of the U.S. mask mandate earlier this year. (Note: masks may still be required on some international routes, depending on the restrictions of the destination country.)
This ongoing evolution underscores the continued importance for travel managers and their travelers to stay abreast of the latest changes, avoiding confusion and angst as they attempt to navigate unchartered territory. The role of the travel manager is expanding to accommodate risk management, policy change, and many more vital travel elements. In fact, a recent report from SAP Concur revealed that 55% of Travel Managers attributed policy related job duties as a major portion of the expanded role.
To tackle these new expectations, we recommend utilizing our Direct Travel Intelligence Hub, which pulls information from more than 2,000 resources for easy travel planning and program navigation. Powered by sherpa°, travelers can access real-time information regarding risks, rules, test requirements, restrictions, and other requirements, wherever they go.
Spend Projections Grow, Demand Bounces Back
The pandemic’s economic impact re-shaped business-as-usual for all travel management sectors. Critical industry segments are now re-thinking business models, tech products, organizational structure, travel philosophy as well as safety measures and guidelines. Despite pandemic repercussions, there is a bright side ─ travel is on the rise and the projections for the remainder of the year and 2023 are promising. Lindsey Roeschke, Travel Analyst with Morning Consult, pointed to a 5-point increase in consumer confidence.
Notably, United Airlines CEO, Scott Kirby, shared the encouraging projection that United will fly customers across the Atlantic this summer with approximately 25% more seats than pre-pandemic. A recent positive statistic by PwC showed that almost half of business travelers’ want to engage in as much as or more travel this year compared to pre-pandemic. Furthermore, another study conducted by Deloitte revealed a positive forecast for business travel as well: The findings showed a 65-80% increase in Q4 compared to 2019.
These stats reflect positive news for the economy and demonstrate that business travelers are eager to hit the road, engaging in more air travel for corporate events, meetings, and vital in-person appointments.
Growing Pains and Traveler Tips
Now that travel is rebounding and corporate travel projections look healthy, the industry faces a new challenge: growing pains. Navigating a complicated travel terrain presents obstacles for travel companies, industry partners, hospitality companies, travelers, and especially travel buyers as they struggle to contend with long delays, flight cancellations, pilot shortages, delayed passport processes, long airport security lines, car rental issues, and the rising cost of travel.
Industry partners and travelers have continually adapted and struggled at times with the changing policies, including managing a surge of massive demand that has impacted operations and strategies. This means that a return to the road is not going to look the same as it did two years ago or even six months ago.
Before your team returns to travel, we recommend resetting expectations around the latest changes with your road warriors. To ensure your travelers are prepared, we’ve compiled the following list of traveler tips to share:
- Plan further ahead: Book your travel as far in advance as possible. Consider selecting early-morning flights, as they tend to delay less often. If you are traveling to attend an important meeting or event, consider planning to arrive a day earlier.
Renew passports earlier: If your passport is approaching a renewal date, start the renewal process right away due to reported delays in passport administration. However, some programs have extended their validity periods to buffer the backlogs. Invest in Nexus, TSA PreCheck, or Global Entry to expedite the security clearance process.
Prior to booking, review your travel profile: Check to make sure your travel profile is correct and up to date. Make sure your frequent flyer and guest numbers are complete and accurate, your credit card information is valid, and your passport is current.
Use your online booking tool (OBT) to book travel: By using your OBT to book your travel, you can avoid extended service call times.
At the time of booking, consider extending connecting times: This will present a better chance to make your connecting flight should there be a delay in your previous flight.
Review your reservations: Upon receipt of your itinerary, immediately check to ensure all details – including name spelling, date, time, and seat assignment – are correct. Verify that you have all the proper travel documents required for your trip. Always select your seat assignment if your fare allows or pay for your seat to ensure confirmation at time of booking.
Plan alternative methods of transportation to and from the airport: Due to high congestion and reported full lots at most airports, leave early, and if possible, plan a drop-off by someone you know or arrange a taxi, Uber or Lyft. Pre-book transportation in advance.
Avoid checked baggage: Consider using carry-on luggage as opposed to checked baggage to bypass congested bag drop-off lines. Be sure that your carry-on luggage meets airline requirements. If you chose to take checked baggage, you should also bring a carry-on bag packed with essential items in case checked luggage is delayed or lost.
Prepare for hotel and car rental contingencies: Due to industry staffing shortages, certain hotel services, restaurants/bars, and housekeeping may be unavailable or limited. Be prepared, and confirm which options are available.
Prepare for Growth Ahead
As consumer confidence gains momentum, travel plans are on the rise. Analysts predict an industry recovery rate around 105% by 2023. These impressive forecasts are exciting but also daunting. At Direct Travel, we prioritize customized and prompt service through our highly capable travel advisors committed to providing high-touch service. Most importantly, our account management team strives to go the extra mile by providing stellar service with a strongest knowledge base within industry.
With Direct Travel as your ally, you can alleviate travel worries and navigate the new terrain with confidence. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your business prepare for and mitigate future growing pains as travel demand accelerates.