It’s been one year since COVID-19 restrictions first pumped the brakes on the booming world of business travel and the industry now has real reason for optimism: COVID-19 case counts have fallen, testing is widespread, and the pace of vaccinations has increased significantly.
Now the question is not when will travel resume, but which businesses will make it back to market first. In game theory this strategy is referred to as “first-mover advantage”—the idea that the first player out of the gate gains a potential edge through making the initial move. With pent-up demand created by on and off lockdowns and travel restrictions, first-mover strategy will help shape the foreseeable future of business travel.
To prevent your organization from falling behind the curve, you must work with your travel management company (TMC) to formulate a plan now for safely reconnecting your employees with key prospects and accounts. Below we explore what first-mover advantage means for both your business and your corporate travel program.
Leveling the Playing Field
Too often during times of economic uncertainty or wide scale disruption, company leaders view travel as an unwieldly budget line item to be reined in. However, in the past year, businesses have witnessed firsthand the impact this kind of thinking has on sales and profitability.
The detrimental effects of cutting travel is backed by SAP Concur’s Global Business Traveler Report 2020, which found that more than 90 percent of individuals surveyed expect negative business consequences as a result of not being able to travel. More specifically, nearly 50 percent expect a decline in new business attributable directly to a lack of in-person meetings.
While this business slowdown may have temporarily set your organization back, it likely did the same for your competitors. Many businesses have significantly less resources at their disposal than they did a year ago, making it difficult to stay connected with a large number of prospects. Essentially, you’re operating on a level playing field with much of your competition.
To take advantage of this, you need in-person meetings to augment your virtual calls and to help differentiate your business. As companies resume in-person meetings for business development or sales purposes, experts predict there will be an increased pressure to return to travel in order to win—or win back—key customers. Face-to-face interactions will enable your team to make the closing case for your company, giving you first-mover advantage.
Creating a Travel Game Plan
Working with your trusted travel management partner, you can formulate a first-mover strategy to make the most of pent-up demand and prepare your team for returning to the road.
The best place to start is by updating your travel policy to reflect new safety expectations. In fact, 96 percent of travelers surveyed by SAP Concur think safety measures need to be in place before they resume traveling, and 94 percent say company-provided training would be helpful. You should also consider whether to implement automated trip approval to ensure compliance and what travel guidelines you will enforce on a company-wide base beyond existing government restrictions.
Once your employees are ready to travel confidently, you need the right tools to ensure they are supported along the way. An all-in-one mobile app can provide this support and allow you to quickly communicate ongoing risks and restrictions. For example, Direct Travel recently became the first TMC to make Sherpa intelligence an integral part of our mobile platform. This technology provides destination-specific information and analyzes the traveler’s passport and points of origin to highlight the most current restrictions, testing, and quarantine requirements.
With the proper support for your travelers in place, you can pivot your attention to supplier negotiations. Those who are first to market will have the opportunity to lock in pricing and avoid the increase in rates that is expected as travel grows. Rate assurance technology can add further savings and help you take advantage of market volatility. While many organizations have minimized cost savings as a primary goal in order to dedicate dollars to ensuring traveler safety, it will return as a top priority as businesses ramp up their travel and safety measures are standardized across the board.
Teaming Up with a Travel Partner
Making a move as one of the first players on the field is always safer alongside the right team partner. Choosing a trusted TMC to manage your corporate travel program reduces stress not only for your organization’s leaders, but also for your travelers. For instance, it’s been shown that travelers from companies without a TMC partner are more likely to be concerned about an upcoming trip than those at companies using a TMC.
Particularly as market conditions change frequently, it is more important than ever to use a travel management partner to keep your business connected with key contacts. If recent forecasts from the Global Business Travel Association and the US Travel Association are any indication, travel is primed for significant growth in Q3 and Q4 of 2021. Your TMC should be able to help you stay ahead of the game to make the most of a first-mover advantage
Is your business ready for the corporate travel rebound ahead? Contact us to get started making your move.