Those managing travel for small and medium sized companies are focusing on wellbeing and flexible booking policies in their return to travel plans.
These were some of the major findings in Corporate Traveller’s recent survey of customers and is mirrored in the conversations our account managers are having with clients every day.
Increasing traveller confidence and comfort is the priority linking these two themes. 73% of companies said that travellers need to feel comfortable about travelling before plans resume, while 61% want the assurance that overseas travel poses minimal risk. The need for vaccinations and COVID tests is not deterring travel for the majority.
There are some parts of planning that cannot be controlled. 80% of our customers are waiting for restrictions to lift before business travel resumes and the same number of respondents believe it will provide the greatest level of reassurance (see chart below).
Travel wellbeing is paramount
61% of our customers told us they have considerations for traveller wellbeing in their travel policies. While lots of travel plans halted, many turned their attention to ironing out issues and optimising their programme, with safety and wellbeing at the centre. It’s just one of the tools travel managers have to ease travellers back on the road when borders open up.
“If duty of care support and wellbeing is part of the policy then it builds confidence in travellers. We’ve undertaken surveys to understand what travellers worry about and need to see in place before they travel, so those concerns can be incorporated into programmes,” says James McIlvenna, Head of Account Management at Corporate Traveller.
“Quarterly reviews with our customers tended to focus on financials but that has switched to wellbeing, duty of care and sustainability. It’s a bit of a health check and to identify ways to improve,” James adds.
Flexibility and adaptability
In the first chart, the need for flexible booking policies was as important as restrictions lifting. Companies want to be able to trust the suppliers they are booking with and not get stung by cancellation or amendment fees.
“This response mirrors our approach with travel suppliers and our position as a trusted source. After speaking to our clients we’ve told suppliers what they’re looking for in terms of flexibility and health and safety protocols. Suppliers then use that feedback and come back to us; it’s a continuous loop,” says James.
TMCs have had to be flexible too. The chart below shows just some of what TMCs have helped customers with recently. COVID testing and Brexit related support wasn’t something we had to think about 12 months ago and the pandemic has accelerated travel risk and wellbeing initiatives.
“What companies need from a TMC now is very different to a year ago. It shows how we’ve had to adapt, and our value shines through,” says James.
Our survey went out in April 2021, when the UK was still largely in lockdown. So it’s no surprise that 38% of our respondents still had no idea when travel would pick up again at their company. 46% anticipated a return to domestic business travel in the UK by July but were more uncertain about international travel.
“It is still largely driven by government restrictions. I expect travel will pick up now that some of the UK restrictions have been eased and people can travel more easily around the country,” says James. “Internationally we think many are waiting until they have at least one vaccine before they feel safe to travel again.”