Travel tomorrow will never look the same as travel yesterday. The COVID-19 crisis has brought about a shift in the way we travel.
We spoke to Kelly Jones, Managing Director of Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia to get her perspective on the future of business travel.
As we prepare for the return to travel, how have the needs and concerns of business travellers evolved and could you give us some insight as to what innovations will emerge from this?
"As a regular business traveler myself - safety, security and duty of care, whilst a consideration before Covid-19, would not have been the forefront of mind unless I was going somewhere unfamiliar or considered a risky location. The traditional corporate travel road warrior would have taken flight with a familiar comfort.
Now, there are several layers of approvals and consideration that need to be taken prior to getting on that flight and getting permissions from different stakeholders is critical."
1. Permission from a government/country
- Are you allowed to travel to and enter the country where you are going?
- Do you have the right paperwork and permissions?
- Are you allowed to return easily to your own country?
- Have you the necessary health declarations, COVID tests, vaccination certificates?
2. Permission from your organization
- Is it business critical?
- Is it within the parameters of what your business wants you to do in order to travel?
3. Permission from the traveller
If a business deems a certain trip critical, should they now have to get the permission of that individual due to the vast amounts of uncertainly it can create:
- Do I know where I’m going and what’s the situation there?
- Am I comfortable going into that country and does my Company have everything in place to help me repatriate if something changes whilst I am away?
- What happens if I am stuck in that country?
"TMCs will be critical in helping to navigate the hierarchy of permissions needed and developing new technology, as well as building on existing products has to be the way forward. We are now advising not only on the travel element (eg: flights, schedules, costings, hotels) but we are now advising on entry requirements, visas, COVID testing requirements and quarantine hotels."
Prior to the COVID pandemic I got a sense we were losing sight of the traveller as everything was geared towards providing information to the travel manager and executives eg: duty of care programmes, data analytics, approvals, exceptions etc. Now, this situation has allowed us to put the traveler back at the heart of the travel policy and programme and this is where the TMC needs to deliver and focus on
What are the challenges facing travel managers?
A good travel program should be able to move and flex with what is happening in key travel destinations. Global responses to increased infections and vaccination programmes need to be taken into account and contingency plans are critical in the ever changing landscape.
- Duty of care
This has always been important, and no more so than now. Has the travel policy taken into consideration the permission required at all levels and are you agile enough to respond instantly to a travellers needs when overseas if the situation changes?
- Support Structure
How have you built your support structure should something go wrong pre, during and post trip? How are you going to engage with the stakeholders to ensure that that individual traveler is protected and safe? What happens if that country shuts its borders?
What trend will make a real difference to your travel program?
Real time information and data. When you book a trip, it is critical that you get real time availability of a flight, real time availability of the hotel and real time pricing. Moreover, you now require real time live information on the VISA scenario, health situation in country and what information and test results you need to get on the plane.
We need technology solutions that integrate that data into the decision-making process in real time, allowing the traveler or travel manager to make an informed decision as to whether the trip should go ahead.
You cannot fix the wheels of a car when the car is moving. Travel, if you take the car analogy, has essentially stopped. We now have the chance to change the wheels and to do it properly. Whilst the industry has been very depressed and in a critical situation in the last 12 months, it has given us the opportunity to take a step back and think about how we want the travel industry to look moving forward.
If ever there was a silver lining to COVID, an opportunity to redesign global travel from the ground up may well just be it!"
Kelly Jones, Managing Director of ATPI for Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia