Top five focus areas to prepare for the new normal in business travel in Asia Pacific
Top 5 focus areas to prepare for the new normal in business travel
James Ellis, Director of Sales at FCM Asia shares his insights and best travel management tips for the Asia Pacific region.
I was recently asked to join an Executive Round Table hosted by Amadeus, to share my opinions on how APAC can rebuild and rethink travel in our region.
To prepare for the event, I browsed through various media publications, travel company websites, as well as social media, and the sentiment across these different channels was very much aligned.
Recovery will really only take off when the rate of vaccination programmes and harmonisation between government authorities picks-up. When it does, we will see corporate travel restarting with a bang, and from there on out, increasing exponentially.
Only TMCs who have prepared in advance for the new world of business travel, will enjoy the fruits of these early efforts.
Director of Sales at FCM Asia
My preparation for the session led me to compile the following tips on ensuring TMCs and travel managers are ready for when borders reopen and business travel resumes:
1 Sharpen your business processes and travel policies
In today’s constantly evolving market, companies can easily become consumed by all the information in the market vs travellers’ growing diverse travel needs. Don’t get distracted by the long list of details and requirements.
Trying to meet all your travellers’ needs is important but don’t be too eager to please. As difficult as it may be, resist the temptation to pander to a traveller’s every need. Stay true to your business processes and travel policies and only implement actions that are meant to deliver the best customer experience for your travellers. You are the only one who knows what’s best for your travellers that will benefit your company at the same time.
2 Smart digitalisation
As the travel industry continues to innovate, the possibilities in managed travel are truly endless. Pre-COVID-19 there was already a natural progression towards more digitalisation as more millennials and zoomers (also known as Gen Zers) enter the workforce, but the advancement has accelerated quickly due to the pandemic.
However not every innovation will be suitable for your company since critical focus areas vary between companies, as does tech savviness of travellers. Search for the best innovations that are clean, simple to use, and can serve to address your focus areas in the most effective and efficient manner.
Mobile solutions will also be incredibly crucial from pre-booking all the way to post-journey. Travellers need solutions that can provide them with real-time updates about the destination, whether prior to arrival, or throughout the trip. Having information like that at the palm of your hand is going to calm travellers, as there will be a certain level of anxiety returning to travel, even among seasoned travellers.
3 The best managed travel experience comes from having support 24/7
Whether they are newbies or seasoned travellers, there will undoubtedly be concerns from people who haven’t traveled in a while. Every trip is going to look different from the last. Travellers will be going to markets where the situation is fluid, when an outbreak can happen unexpectedly and potentially leave them stranded. So, what happens if they are stuck there? While you may want to go digital, it’s going to be important to have a blended service model, where your travellers can speak to someone if needed and interact in real-time. Collaborate with your TMCs to ensure they can provide the best of both worlds to your travellers, who knows they can speak to someone and are being listened to during emergency situations.
4 Enhanced role for sustainability
Sustainability is moving beyond a nice-to-have, to need-to-have. As companies slowly emerge from the pandemic, many have started to switch gears on the sustainability front as offsetting programmes are increasingly seen as limiting in effectiveness. What was once equated mostly with carbon offsetting, corporate travel sustainability, has evolved considerably, with companies looking at actual emission reduction to address the root of the problem.
Before COVID-19, a Nielsen report and Forbes article both found that over 70% of Millennials and Gen Zers respectively are not only seeking sustainable brands, products and services, but are also willing to pay more for them. Travel suppliers need to start looking at the balance of cost vs emission. A traveller who previously booked a hotel with four pools may now start to question: “Is this really necessary? Can I book a hotel with less amenities that produces less emissions?” TMCs need to provide relevant and accurate information to clients and allow them to make those informed decisions.
5 Consistency as the new reality across all markets
In the past year, we’ve seen companies take stock of what they can do better during this period of significantly reduced-travel. Those who were hesitant to go digital in some markets before COVID-19 are now approaching this in a new light, evaluating how they can reset and restart with more consistency.
Certainty from travel suppliers is also needed to provide comfort for travelers. From airports to airlines, hotels to ground transport providers, consistency is no longer an option now for those in the industry. Only by providing consistent standards will there be a sustainable respite for business travellers. Building confidence to improve the overall level of satisfaction as a critical step will be key in restoring business travel to the new normality.