It’s well known that travel policies should never be a static document…
The four main areas travel policies have changed since the coronavirus pandemic
It’s well known that travel policies should never be a static document and despite the fact your organisation’s travel most likely plummeted due to the pandemic the trope still rings true. So true, in fact, that the industry has reported on many organisations creating ‘pop up’ travel policies, with temporary and, in some cases frequently, changing rules.
Earlier this year the GBTA surveyed 2000+ travel buyers on the topic of travel policies and well over half of the respondents reported that their company had changed its travel policy - with 70% defining the changes to their policy as being ‘somewhat’ or ‘a lot’. Click here to see the full survey results.
The ways in which respondents’ policies had been amended included features such as trip approval, duty of care and mandating the use of a TMC. Some changes were seen as short term and will likely disappear when the pandemic ebbs away, whereas others are likely to be permanent changes and indicate how corporate travel in the future may look.
Within this article we share the four main ways in which we have seen travel policies change since the pandemic and hope this provides suitable suggestions for your organisation or a practical checklist. Even if your organisation is currently subject to a complete travel ban it would be a good idea to use these suggestions as prompts to reflect back on when some aspects of your organisation’s travel begins to return.
Is travel permission the new travel approval?
Within the aforementioned GBTA survey the most common area for survey respondents to have changed their corporate travel policy was in regard to ‘instituting new rules about pre-trip approval (53%).’ - not only changes in relation to trip approval but also permission to travel.
Many organisations now require travellers to gain permission for travel before the booking process begins. For some organisations this is a blanket rule, regardless of whether the travel is domestic or further afield, whilst other organisations have differing permissions in relation to the destination or mode of travel. In contrast, some organisations have limited travel to business-critical client-facing trips only and are therefore declining any internal travel. The refreshed focus upon the traveller safety is a major departure from cost of trip, which previously dictated travel being given the green light.
There has also been shift in who is approving travel and this has most commonly been passed on to more senior stakeholders, HSE or HR.
Not only do updated travel policies mean that business trips need to be approved before the research even begins, many organisations are also now including a clause within their travel policy which includes the option for employees to decline travel due to their or their families health.
Duty of care
For those organisations who are travelling or planning to start travelling again soon, duty of care will now form a significant section of their travel policy. This is in reinforced by the fact that many companies now require travellers to gain permission before planning or booking a trip, which is ultimately for the safety and wellbeing of the traveller.
An additional change to many policies is that travel is now mandated via the travel management company or other official channels to ensure full visibility for safety and security purposes. This means that anyone travelling is now tracked within traveller tracking systems before, during and after their trip. By booking through mandated channels not only are organisation’s taking advantage of the safety benefits these channels provide, but are also ensuring credits or unused tickets are leveraged. It also ensures that any travel programme leakage has been reduced.
Although the direct gains won by rolling out amended travel policies might seem minimal, the behavioural change that they will encourage will have great returns in the future when travel increases.
A regression back to offline travel bookings
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic the majority of corporate businesses were pushing for ever higher online adoption rates. It was common practice for many to drive all travel booking online as a way of reducing costs, however the pandemic has seen many corporates amending their policy and turning off their OBTs or limiting their use, for example only enabling travel to be booked online for domestic trips.
This shift to offline booking has also enabled organisations to implement stricter travel authorisation processes; however it is worth noting that many online tools can now accommodate extensive approval and permission processes.
A major reasoning for the shift offline means that travellers can access the expertise and information they need to ensure they make informed decisions regarding their trip in an ever changing environment, something that is especially important whilst travel and route options are so limited. Very often travellers now have the time available to conduct a more consultative booking process and rarely need to book a trip immediately as travel tends to be more planned and considered.
However, the move online is not a necessity and many corporates have stuck to the booking tools they know and love. This is an example of one of the temporary shifts that we have seen in regards to travel policies. It can be expected that once restrictions and destination differences become less complex there will be a move back to online booking.
Whilst flexibility is not a topic within travel policies per se, ensuring that the style of your policy is agile and you and your organisation are ready to make necessary changes quickly is a key trend in the policies we have seen and will continue to see. That said regular changes to your travel policy will mean that you will need to spend more time on communicating your policy. Find out more on the topic of communication strategies here.
Now you’ve discovered the four main ways we have seen travel policies change in 2020, do you need a practical guide to writing an effective corporate travel policy?
If so, this is the guide for you:
Where else should you be focusing your time and effort?
Find out more here.