Let’s face it: 2020 hasn’t been kind to the travel industry. What started as a year with big plans and tons of opportunity quickly came to a halt as the world hunkered down to handle the impacts of COVID-19.
The consequences have been major: according to reports from the U.S. Travel Association, the U.S. travel economy has seen $376 billion in cumulative losses since the beginning of March. Personal vacations have stalled, with many favoring “staycations” and shorter road trips. On the business side of things, many large conferences were canceled or went totally virtual, as did day-to-day business.
Now 6+ months in, thankfully, some areas have seen relief and even received the go-ahead to begin reopening. As we discover our “new normal” of business and corporate travel, companies are starting to wonder what’s safe and what’s not.
So, let’s answer that question: is it safe to travel right now? The simple answer is yes, as long as you’re being smart about it. In the next few sections, we’ll dive into some of the business travel trends we’re seeing, and how to move forward with business as “usual”—just with a few key changes in place.
While many industries can make do with virtual meetings and communication, others really need that face-to-face time to establish relationships and keep business moving along smoothly. For the latter, just know that we won’t be stuck forever, and many are beginning to travel again now.
A report from McKinsey & Company acknowledged that corporate travel will return, albeit “in phases, spurred by proximity, reason for travel and sector. “ In the screenshot below, you can see their predictions for these three categories.
Regional and domestic business travel will see a return to normal first, with international travel taking longer to rebound. The purpose of the travel will also factor in, with sales-focused organizations itching to return to normal sooner than other, less face-to-face industries. We’ll likely see sectors like construction and manufacturing return to normal before knowledge-based sectors like science and technology research.
Similarly, we’ll likely see different business travel trends depending on the specific area. Throughout the globe, COVID-19 “hot spots” have emerged, migrated, and dissipated with time. As such, smart businesses will factor that into their decisions to travel as well as host others.
The CDC website, for example, encourages event planners to collaborate with local health officials to determine the risk of holding an event, since scenarios can differ so much by city and state. As our tracking and testing improve, it’s important to keep an eye on any areas you’re thinking of traveling to, so that you can properly assess the risk to you and your team.
Another interesting takeaway from the McKinsey study is just how much of an impact a vaccine would make. 75% of travel planners said that a readily-available COVID-19 vaccine would give them the most confidence in booking events and conferences.
A vaccine will help the world go back to normal, but until then, we’re not at a loss. As travel picks up and the general public starts feeling more comfortable traveling, it’s important to stay vigilant. But it’s also up to us to stimulate the economy and ensure business travel has a safe and successful return.
As we mentioned earlier, be prepared to be diligent in your research before traveling or hosting others. Your local government’s website is an invaluable resource for this. If you’re thinking of traveling to a “hot spot,” you may want to hold off. But if your client or partner is in a low-risk area, traveling can be completely safe.
For extra peace of mind, look into cancellation policies before booking your travel. Many airlines have adjusted their policies, allowing travelers to cancel and change flights as needed for free. If you have a corporate travel trip planned and then things change in the area you’re headed to, that will certainly make your decision easier to postpone the trip for another time.
This tip goes for travelers as well as event and meeting planners. For travelers, the obvious tips should be in place: wash your hands frequently, stay home if you’re feeling sick, and maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
For event planners, the CDC offers a lot of great guidance on its website. Tips include:
The hotel industry has always had a longstanding commitment to cleanliness and safety, and many are stepping protocols up even more now. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released a full guide to industry-wide hotel cleaning guidelines in response to COVID-19, which can be found here.
Some of the protocols you can expect are:
To help your team feel extra safe, consider checking with the hotel you’ll be staying in and confirming that these protocols and precautions are in place. And when you’re there, remind your team to be responsible guests and follow all of the rules in place.
As we inch back into corporate travel, TurboRes is ready to help. Designed for organizations and travel planners in all sectors, we can assist with every step of your travel planning, including ensuring the health and safety of your team. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.