How to navigate the challenges of ‘essential’ travel
Does your upcoming business trip really constitute ‘essential’ travel? It's a question many travellers and those involved in business travel planning have been getting their head around. There is some travel that even during a pandemic is unavoidable.
From mining to pharmaceuticals, a great number of multinationals continue to send their teams around the world. “Most of these companies’ travel arrangements constitute essential travel,” says Mick Heitzinger, European Head of Account Management.
“COVID-19 has just added an extra layer of complexity. Travel management companies (TMCs) need to think on their feet. You might have found a solution to a problem, but the next day – or the next hour – some government somewhere changes a rule, and you have to start over. A strong TMC partner will advise you and keep you up-to-date on a country’s changing processes and regulations – so that your team is in place, up and running, and productive as soon as possible.”
When navigating an ever-fluctuating landscape, it is essential that multinationals work with a TMC that moves with the times and understands what essential travel means for you and your traveller.
Here’s what you should expect from your TMC:
1. Crisis know-how
At the moment, the world is fixated on COVID-19, but even without a global pandemic things can go wrong. “COVID aside,” says Heitzinger, “In the event of an emergency affecting your travellers (from weather events impacting an individual to large-scale evacuations) a TMC should do all they can to minimise any distress and coordinate quickly to get them to safety”.
Of course, crisis management is just a small part of a larger commitment to duty of care. “To ensure your duty of care responsibilities are being fulfilled, FCM will enhance your pre-trip processes and put a plan in place for quickly and safely responding to anything affecting your people on the go,” says Heitzinger.
2. Going beyond duty of care
Trust, communication and the flow of timely, accurate information between TMCs, travel managers and travellers are more important than ever before. You should work closely with a TMC that can:
- Address traveller insecurity with confidence
- Manage the logistics of pre-and post-COVID travel
- Understand and detail health and safety protocols at every point of the journey
3. Controlling costs
In a cost-conscious time, you're likely facing significant pressure to cut costs. “Before you force your employees to use discount airlines, cheap hotels or tin cars, make sure you speak to your TMC,” says Heitzinger. “ FCM has helped clients significantly reduce their travel liability simply by adopting a more holistic approach to travel management.”
Heitzinger explains that if the data reveals that a client is using 500 different hotels in 50 cities, the FCM team would advise reducing this number to say 100, and negotiate a discount with the remaining hotels. “It is about creating efficiencies,” he says.
4. An agile, flexible approach to customer needs
Not only do you need to know that your travellers are happy and safe, but you need a travel partner that can respond quickly to their needs – and to any unpredictable situation – with ease and flexibility.
FCM’s new digital booking platform can be customised to your needs. You can gather (and analyse) data from travellers to design the best itinerary and book the best options to meet their needs, including
- Insights around likes and dislikes
- Traveller friction
- Traveller preferences
- Travel behaviour
5. Real-time information
With an ever-fluctuation travel landscape, real-time information is a non-negotiable whether you’re travelling to Tokyo, New York or Brussels. It takes patience and perseverance to figure out who’s allowed into which province or country; not to mention, how and when.
The Flight Centre Travel Group has updated its Travel News website with a colour-coded map that easily identifies inbound and outbound travel restrictions for international travel. Travellers are able to search destinations that are open for travel, as well as find out where COVID-19 testing sites are located and obtain information about quarantine rules on both inbound and outbound travel. Advanced discovery filters will also allow for easy identification of countries that have no restrictions or travel without quarantine.
6. Creative solutions
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and there is no doubt that COVID-19 is driving progress and innovation. We’re living in a world where contactless check-in, biometrics, virus screening and digital health passports will become the norm.
“Look for a TMC which is tackling the current chaos head on, exploring new ways of doing things and delivering creative and seamless solutions for companies who need to be back on the road,” Heitzinger concludes.
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