Business Travel: on rebound post Covid Pandemic
Travel Industry, in particular Business travelers experienced challenging circumstances during the Covid pandemic. The sector has been crippled by COVID-19 for the past almost 2 years, along with the move to remote labor/work from home and the industry focus on ESG and pressing need to lower carbon emissions. The corporate travel sector is undoubtedly rebounding rapidly, but it is expected to experience considerable changes over the coming months.
Let’s look at some major problems business and leisure travellers and travel management companies (TMCs) faced during the covid-19 pandemic:
Cancellations and Refunds
The corporate travel sector essentially stopped when COVID-19 broke out. 98 percent of the Global Business Travel Association’s members postponed or cancelled all overseas business travel till April 2021. One year later, the pandemic is still our biggest problem. Many of us have had to postpone additional flights out of an abundance of caution due to increase in the infection rate in either our home country or the destination country or the restrictive quarantine rules.
Once countries started opening up to international arrivals, accurate information on Covid related rules + Flexibility of your travel plans now became more critical than ever when booking business travel because passengers need to be able to adjust plans to protect their safety, compliance to Covid regulations and the safety of their colleagues, as well as ensure that money being spent on travel arrangements has reasonable refund value in case a trip can’t happen.
However, unlike in US where many airlines and hotels were offering extension of validity or credit for future redemptions – many countries saw tourists and travel managers reported having trouble getting refunds. Each airline and hotel operator has its refund process, some of which take a lot of time. Flights and hotels might withhold the reimbursement unless they are responsible for the cancellation (or flight delay in the case of airlines). Some carriers have even demanded that passengers pay the fare difference when changing flights.
Duty of Care to travelers
In addition to the continuous difficulties with cancellations and refunds, the coronavirus epidemic has raised new concerns about companies responsibility on duty of care.
Employers have to protect their workers’ physical and mental health, and this commitment extends to business travel. Protecting employees while they travel for business has become more complex than ever in the wake of the pandemic.
How can we ensure that while they are away on business travel in US or internationally, none of our staff enter COVID-19-19 hotspots? How can we keep an eye on the social segregation offered in hotels and conference spaces? And how can we reduce the chance of random lockdowns catching workers off guard? Our company travel policy did not previously address any of these issues, but they are now crucial.
Additionally, these inquiries provide difficulties for travel management companies. A Business Travel Association poll from March 2022 found that over three-quarters of respondents now need the duty of care and risk management proof before making a travel reservation. This is a crucial criterion to keep in mind throughout a busy period for the sector.
Business travel picks up momentum after the covid pandemic
There are new obstacles for our industry to think about now, particularly for UK businesses, in the wake of Brexit. According to the new rules, British businesses reporting expenses to the EU must submit separate claims to each nation where the costs were incurred. It’s an additional weight for travel managers to carry on top of the COVID-19-19 uncertainties.
India – a growing business travel market is slated to be among Top 5 countries on business travel spend by 2030 as per various studies. OYO, a travel and hospitality technology platform, conducted a survey where they uncovered that business travel in India has resumed after nearly two years of a pause brought on by the Covid epidemic. According to OYO’s mid-year business travel report, continued momentum is now apparent in business travel. Since January 2022, business activities have accelerated across all industries.
This year’s study of 1,300 participants revealed that Delhi was the top choice for business travelers, closely followed by Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.
According to OYO, the younger generation is leading the recovery in business travel, accounting for 43% of travelers in the 20–24-year-old age group, followed by 25–30-year-olds (34.5%) and travelers in the 31–45-year-old age group (18.6 percent).
According to OYO, young business travelers, such as recent college graduates and those who have just entered the workforce, are more excited about returning to face-to-face interactions after months of virtual meetings and telephonic conversations.
OYO Senior Vice President, Products claimed that business travel is reliable and has the most negligible seasonal impact of any travel. “Companies, small and medium-sized firms, and travelers from the public sector all seem to be experiencing an equal level of a revival lately. We anticipate this market will expand much further in the distant future.”
The survey indicates that, with 16% of all business travel, the construction industry leads all other sectors, including transportation, apparel, electronics, IT, and healthcare.
Regarding how frequently they travel, 29% of those surveyed indicated once a month, 25% once every three months, and 21% once weekly.
Regarding the length, 73% stated their trip lasted 3 days, 19% said it lasted 3 to 7 days, and 4% said it lasted longer than a week.
“52% of all respondents answered that while making travel arrangements, safety comes first. For 48% of business travelers, hygiene is still their top priority, and 45% of travelers base their decisions on staying somewhere on the deals and prices available.
As the business travel in US patterns and trends are similar to various other countries, TMCs and other players in Supply Chain are making corrections in their business model to ensure that demand and supply is catered for, customer complaints are minimized and the eco-system offers a safe travel experience. The recent capping by various European airports on number of passengers to be brought in highlights the talent crunch and their ability to handle the high volume of traffic and pent-up demand that was there.
It is important that corporate travel managers be open and flexible to explore various travel management companies that are better performers in terms of deliverables on regional and global travel fulfilment. Going for a brand name is no longer necessary. Business Travel in US is bouncing back, as it is for other countries and, understandably, the industry is upbeat after having gone through a turmoil.
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