A short checklist of four areas that those responsible for corporate travel should be focusing on in order to get their travel programme back on track, ready for when the world begins to open up
The mental wellbeing of travellers became more of a priority within travel management back in 2019, as wider conversations about mental health and stress management took place. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 paused efforts as organisations understandably focused on how to minimise the health risks to travellers.
Now that most corporates have repatriated stranded employees and developed new duty of care processes for essential workers, attention should once more turn to the mental wellbeing of travellers. At a time
when so much to do with travel feels uncertain and can trigger feelings of anxiety and nervousness amongst travellers, it’s best practice to plan ahead for how you will properly support your team once they do start to travel again.
Post-trip surveys can be a useful way of collecting the experiences of those who are travelling and using them to inform your organisation’s new corporate travel processes. For example, if a returning traveller tells you that they did not feel well-informed about the health and safety or quarantine requirements of their
destination country then you can ensure that you provide future travellers with more information.
Consider asking questions about how they felt before, during and after the trip, how the trip impacted their work and home life and whether they would’ve liked your organisation to do anything differently to better support them. Your TMC will be able to advise you further on post-trip traveller surveys.
It’s now essential that organisations are communicating with their travellers to ensure they are safe and secure, as well as feeling confident about any upcoming trips. Regular communication that is tailored to meet your company culture will go a long way in reassuring travellers once the world begins to open up.
Pre-pandemic communication schedules and methods will most likely not provide travellers with the support they need. Most of them will have gone from booking routine trips without much thought,
to feeling like they have no idea what awaits them once they start to travel again.
In preparation for this, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how you have communicated with your entire travelling community in the past and to review it critically - is this robust enough for the future?
When beginning to test out new ways of communicating with your travellers, why not start with those who have already started travelling again, or those who are expected
to be the first to start travelling again? Ever-changing travel updates and global restrictions means that all travellers are dealing with what can be an overwhelming amount of information right now, so it’s important not to bombard individuals who rarely travel or are not expecting to travel for some time with ‘irrelevant’ information.
Many corporates are feeling at a loss when it comes to negotiating new suppliers rates right now. Their travel data for the last twelve months will, hopefully, not be reflective of their travel for the year ahead and so predicting travel volumes as a way of negotiating new deals feels impossible.
When it comes to hotel rates, our advice is not to prioritise a formal RFP process in 2021.
The simplification of RFPs was a trend that we saw emerging pre-Covid and 2021 looks to feature deals as simple as a ceiling rate for the year with percent discounts applied across the whole of a hotel’s estate, including hero properties that may have previously been excluded. Given the extreme pressures the hotel market is under, we expect this trend to continue as hotels scrabble to gain as much share as
they can from the available market. You can read more about this here.
As an overall rule, it makes good sense to roll your 2020 hotel rates over into 2021 and monitor these as the year unfolds. It’s a good time to also review the rate caps outlined in your current travel policy and decide whether you’d like to lower these or allow travellers to stay in 4* or 5* hotels for the price of 3* accommodation.
Air fares tells a similar story and we would recommend that organisations talk to their TMCs, rather than airlines, to discuss how to get the best fares. Your TMC should have access to separate negotiated rates and exclusive fares that they can pass on to you. Most organisations won’t have hit their 2020 travel targets, but it’s likely that airlines will lower their expectations and be
more open to negotiations as a way of building new relationships with customers.
Reviewing any negotiated fares that are attached to particular routes is worthwhile, as these routes may no longer be relevant to how your organisation travels. It could be the case that a different airline is now operating your most frequently travelled
route, in which case you will need to decide whether you’d like to negotiate a new rate. It is also worth reviewing which loyalty schemes your organisation benefits from work this into your planning, as most airlines have agreed to extend expiration dates by at least six months.
The challenges presented by the pandemic have meant that the role of travel approval systems has changed overnight, with focus shifting from cost to now also prioritising the safety and security of employees as they adapt to a new way of travelling.
There’s no denying that cost reduction will remain important as corporates begin to navigate a dramatically different business landscape, particularly for organisations in sectors heavily impacted by an unstable economy. Travel approval remains an effective way of curtailing spend, as it allows stakeholders to prevent trips that break budget or indulge in unnecessary first class travel. However, the right travel approval workflow is now a powerful tool in the effort to reinforce your organisation’s duty of care programme.
Although a thorough approvals process might once have been a source of frustration to travellers, it now provides reassurance to many employees who might feel nervous at the thought of making their first corporate trip. Knowing that multiple stakeholders, who have access to detailed information regarding risk assessment and travel guidelines, have approved a trip can help travellers to feel more confident and as though your organisation is putting their wellbeing first.
Finding a travel approval system that can be customised and adapted to your organisation’s needs throughout the year ahead is important, as what feels like a sensible and realistic travel approval process in February 2021 might feel irrelevant or even noncompliant by November 2021. Your organisation might also want to implement different approval workflows depending on the reason for travel or on the traveller themselves - the right travel approval system will make this possible.
Find out whether your current travel approval system is up for the challenge of 2021 by taking this short quiz