While our country is staying apart to observe social distancing guidelines, the coronavirus outbreak has led to some unexpected opportunities for virtual connection. In fact, we’ve seen quite a few instances of thought leaders coming together to share strategies, ideas, and tactics for handling the new day-to-day as well as what’s to come.
That is exactly what happened at BTN’s ‘Managing Travel During a Crisis’ webinar, sponsored by Direct Travel, in late April. The panel speakers included:
- Kelly Christner
Head of Global Travel, Fleet and Meetings
Edgewell Personal Care
- Neil Hammond
- Kevin Iwamoto
Chief Strategy Officer
- Carey Pascoe
Senior Travel Manager, Corporate Procurement
Dolby Laboratories, Inc.
- Jen Bankard
Director, Content Solutions and Conferences
The BTN Group
To watch the webinar in full, you can access it on demand here, or read on for our key takeaways.
Top 5 takeaways to share with your team
1 – Travel managers must be involved in crisis management
Now more than ever, companies are realizing that they must include travel programs in their overall crisis plan. Pascoe believes the current crisis can serve as a jumping-off point for travel managers to solidify their involvement with their incident management teams.
If this team does not exist yet, Pascoe recommended creating one that includes team members from HR, communications, and legal along with travel managers.
By improving these processes now, especially as they relate to crisis management, companies will be in a better position to handle unexpected situations in the future and protect travelers’ safety.
This sentiment was supported by Christner, who underscored the importance of clear and open communication between travel, HR, and C-suite executives. These key groups need to be aligned on when and how to resume travel after a crisis.
2 – The ability to make informed decisions hinges on data accuracy
When a situation or crisis arises, companies must be able to accurately track travelers in order to maintain Duty of Care and protect their safety. And as conditions continue to change, the best way to make informed decisions is to work with a Travel Management Company (TMC) that can source and analyze data.
This data will also be critical for creating new crisis management travel policies. Iwamoto cautioned against using historical data, as the future of travel in a post-pandemic world is likely going to look very different. Instead, companies should work with their TMC to help create processes.
Data accuracy and policy tracking will be especially important as travel begins to resume. Different regions are going to have different timelines and protocols, so big-picture information like border closures may not tell the entire story.
Working with a trusted TMC partner can help companies keep track of and respond to the variations from region to region that their travelers will encounter.
3 – Unused tickets can have a major impact on travel budgets
The International Air Transport Association estimates that worldwide ticket airline refunds and vouchers due to COVID-19 total more than $35 billion.
Tracking unused tickets has always been a cost-saving opportunity for companies and a major benefit of working with a TMC. Now more than ever, having a plan to deploy unused tickets could impact a business’s travel budget for years to come.
Iwamoto suggests cross-referencing the accuracy of the available data for all unused tickets with your partners before attempting to create a timeline and strategy for using these tickets in the future. Be sure to work with your TMC to find out what unused ticket management services they provide that can help to streamline this process.
4 – Businesses need to assess the comfort level of their travelers
Budget, business needs, and supply and demand will all play a role in how quickly business travel resumes, but perhaps the most important factor will be the comfort of the actual business travelers. Naturally, they will want to know what their company is doing to protect their health and safety.
Pascoe and Christner agreed that communication will be integral. Companies should openly share which specific safety measures they will be implementing to protect travelers.
Likely, these measures will need to remain flexible to keep up with an ever-changing situation. Companies should follow local and state regulations while continuing to communicate all changes to their travelers.
This will help put employees’ minds at ease and assure them that their company is prioritizing their health and safety.
5 – Post-pandemic travel will be a new landscape
While experts agree that business travel will eventually resume, the future is going to look a little different.
Iwamoto noted that business travel may not reach pre-pandemic volume. Right now, companies have no choice but to host meetings and conferences virtually. As they become accustomed to digital events, some companies may choose to reduce the frequency of in-person events in favor of virtual connection.
Looking for a TMC to help you manage Duty of Care policies, crisis management, and data accuracy? Contact Professional Travel to find out how we can help.
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