Our clients are confident that business travel will resume – and we are, too. Ensuring the travel policy is fit for purpose is a critical first step. When it’s time to travel, you need your employees to know what’s allowed, when to book, who to book – and most importantly, why. Successful travel programs make trips simple, productive and safe for business travelers. Let’s focus on three key areas that you need to think about now.
Stay or go?
Transforming travel programs to more sustainable models ensures travelers can work together to meet their company goals – no matter where they are. Programs that answer the “stay or go” question help keep travelers safe, limit travel to necessary trips and reduce travel’s impact on the environment. A well-developed sustainability program accounts for risk assessment and management, duty of care and traveler wellness. Sustainable programs integrate smart technology tools that:
- Support virtual collaboration
- Assist travelers with booking, itinerary and trip navigation
- Provide real-time access to COVID-19 travel information
- Can be adapted to support emerging technologies, like digital health passes
It also builds spend management strategies into every part of managed travel, including air, hotel, ground and rail programs.
Top factors that influence business travel decisions during COVID-19
Infection level at destination
Vulnerability of employee
*Source: BCD Travel Research & Intelligence online survey of 97 travel managers, September 2020.
Acceptable company travel
Your employees’ safety is the No. 1 priority. Travel to all destinations, not just the high-risk ones, should be scrutinized as the situation changes weekly. Seize this period of downturn in travel as the right time to start making policy amendments to safeguard your travelers’ wellbeing.
Your travelers will want to know how to decide if they should travel or not, which airline is safest, which hotel is cleanest and what they should do if they’re stranded because a country suddenly re-enters lockdown. A clear and accessible travel policy will give them the information they need to make the right decision and feel confident about traveling again. Look at core procedural changes to provide clarity and protect travelers. Make sure you consider:
TRIP PLANNING AND VIABILITY
- Stronger pre-trip approval process
- Viewing current risk ratings in destinations
- Assessing operation of flights and hotels
- Check departures and hotel availability
- Visa restrictions
- Potential quarantine and pre-trip testing
- Which travelers should or shouldn’t travel
SHIFTING MEETING TYPE BEHAVIORS
- Define business essential trips
- Determine per type of trip the most optimal configuration
- Can this meeting/trip be conducted virtually?
- Reduction in travel trends around: Single day trips / Internal travel / Last minute trips
DUTY OF CARE
- Additional pre-trip approval (including online booking tools)
- Implement pre-trip testing procedure, and traveler tracking and tracing system
- Register with safety partner and download mobile app
- Telework tools and policies
- Assess repatriation possibilities
- Limit high-risk destination travel
- Destination-specific information
Health and safety
Your travelers will only want to return to travel if they feel safe
When our Research & Innovation team surveyed our clients last year, traveler wellbeing was a top three priority for corporate travel managers, just behind savings and duty of care – but their pre-COVID programs didn’t always reflect it.
The pandemic has given new resonance to this topic: Your people are your greatest asset and an effective travel policy should prioritize their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
We recommend asking your travelers how they feel about getting back on the road. Governmental restrictions might have been eased and airlines and hotels might be operational again—but that doesn’t mean your travelers feel comfortable about returning to travel. Also, ask travelers for feedback on what they think will help them stay healthy on the road. What new wellness options would they like to see? Surveys will give you the feedback you’re looking for, tracking the trends so you can adjust in real time.
What your travel policy should consider right now
- Expense guidance: Update your corporate travel policy to address expense guidance for tests, PPE, vaccinations and travel safety requirements.
- Transfer to/from the airport: How do they get to the airport? Public transport, own transport, rental car, taxi or a pre-arranged transfer? All have different potential exposure levels.
- Dining options: Do you want your travelers to have the option to choose to eat in locations/venues where they have increased exposure, or do you want them to have a meal in the hotel? If in the hotel, will it be the restaurant or room service?
- Allow lounge access: Do you want your travelers to walk around in the airport and sit in public spaces or do you allow them to go into the lounge.
- Anticipate potential forced extension: Do travelers have enough personal supplies and medicines in case their trip is unexpectedly extended? This is particularly important for any traveler with a health condition.
- Travel essentials: Do you want to provide travel health kits (e.g., gloves, face mask, hand sanitizer) or allow travelers to expense these supplies?
- Medical matters: Do you have procedures in place for travelers who get sick on the road? Are you giving guidance on medical insurance? Traveler manual: Do your travelers know the basics? Outline what they need to do in case of emergency, etc.
- Tailored messaging: What health and wellness options can you flag up to travelers? Tailor TripSource® messages to tell them about convenient hotel gyms, nearby parks with jogging paths, juice bars, walking tours and more.
- Supplier mix: Can you add health-oriented hotels to your supplier mix? What kind of offerings would be most valuable to your travelers?
Use and elevate all your travel tools and channels
Once you’ve defined the changes in your policy, you need to engage your travelers in their adoption. Provide them with the tools and the ability to make choices based upon their business needs. Help them understand through easy to digest visual assets, such as infographics, FAQs and videos, via emails, intranet content and OBT programing. This will ensure your travelers are fully informed and confident in what the policy means to them and what is expected of them.
Thinking about mandating vaccinations? Not the best idea.
A travel policy is a guide to travelers and should educate them to make best choices. Rather than mandating any particular action, like a vaccination, you should provide explanations of how the advantages of vaccination and traveling with a digital health pass outweigh the disadvantages.
In addition, there are ethical considerations, issues of data privacy as well as legal implications.
Travel policy in a new world
What used to be common protocol for travelers – deciding to travel, booking trips and managing company expectations – now must be closely scrutinized by travelers and travel teams. Questions arise quickly. A thorough travel policy should address all.
BCD Travel and Advito experts share the importance of a dynamic travel policy, accompanied by a clear strategy to communicate to travelers.
What you can do
Travel policy checklist
What BCD Travel is doing
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of having a dynamic, digestible and meaningful policy that is easy to update as global travel risks evolve. If your policy is outdated, your travelers won’t have the information they need as they get back on the road. Now is the time to revamp your policy so it can be a cornerstone of your back to travel strategy.
Senior Vice President, Advito