To travel or not to travel – where is the value?
The new business travel landscape is now starting to emerge, with companies gaining the confidence to send their teams back out on the road and in the skies.
In some countries, road travel has replaced air travel due to reduced flight schedules. In others, trains are the preferred choice to move people from meeting A to meeting B. Where borders are on friendly terms, air travel remains the quickest way to get in and get out safely.
But with COVID-19 putting both travel budgets and traveler safety under the spotlight, companies need to consider the value of their business trips more carefully than ever. While resuming travel will be different for everyone, every Travel Manager and Booker needs to make sure they are seeing real value in sending their employees safely back out on the road.
What is ‘value-generating’ travel?
In the pre-COVID world (which feels like years ago now), value-generating travel could be closing a deal or signing new business. It could be important networking or training events, or opportunities for leadership teams to meet with colleagues or customers in person. Most of all, it was about human interaction, which is the biggest reason why business travel is so important. Meeting with people in person can help increase understanding and empathy, reduce miscommunication, and build relationships outside of the boardroom and Zoom calls.
Depending on your travel budget and approval process, identifying what was valuable travel pre-COVID could have been a matter of ‘the sky is the limit’. But that is certain to change heading into 2021.
Getting travel approved in a COVID-world
While most travel programs were put into hibernation in the early months of the COVID pandemic, we are starting to see them come back to life.
Our recent State of the Market Survey revealed that in August 2020, 50% of surveyed customers had employees traveling or booking to travel in the immediate future, and over 90% of businesses plan to travel domestically and short-haul continental, within 3 months of borders opening.
Resuming travel will be different for everyone. What’s important for every business however, is that they invest the time and energy to define 'business essential and business critical travel', and where they will get the most value.
Here’s some advice on how to work out if that travel request has the ‘value’ factor:
- A good place to start is your travel policy. Does it already define what essential or critical travel is within your company, and are these definitions still relevant or in need of a refresh?
- If the travel is related to closing a deal or wining new business, and the traveler isn’t heading into a COVID hotspot, then it’s a easier decision. In-person interaction is critical for effective relationship management, and after months of Zoom calls it will be a welcomed visit!
- For leaders who haven’t managed to get to their other offices, now could be the time to schedule that visit if border restrictions allow. No doubt your teams will have been working their hardest to keep your business afloat during this devastating time and making the effort to meet in person will send a strong, positive message.
- If you’re preparing to restart operations and get back to business then a visit to your factories may be essential.
- Once the trip is approved as ‘critical’, consider the number of employees in the travel request and how many actually need to go. To get the most value out of the trip make sure only those travelers who are essential to the trips’ success are the ones boarding the plane.
To find out what other businesses are saying about their plans to return to travel check out our 2020 State of the Market Report. You can learn what over 2,000 businesses from around the world are thinking, and most importantly planning, for the year ahead.
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