Business Trips During COVID-19: Will it Ever Be the Same?

by | Dec 19, 2020

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Travel is an essential component of business operations. Unfortunately, it is also a major threat to public health during an outbreak of a contagious disease. So there is little wonder that the COVID-19 had a major effect on the industry, as it did on nearly every aspect of our lives. Let’s look at how the industry of business travel is adapting and what we can do to make the transition as smooth as possible.

How COVID-19 Reshaped Business Travel

The travel industry has taken a heavy blow due to the lockdown. According to the report from the Global Business Travel Association:

  • The industry had lost more than $500 billion since spring
  • Half of the association’s members report suspending most or all travel to Europe
  • Four out of ten companies suspended all international travel
  • More than 40% of booked business trips were canceled
  • Nearly 60% reported significant revenue losses
  • More than half of companies have modified their travel safety policies

The latter point is what is perhaps the most indicative of things to come. The ongoing public health crisis certainly feels like something that will ruin everything we love, yet the truth is humanity will find a way to cope with it. In fact, we’ve been through this several times before, with economic crises and catastrophic incidents sending shockwaves throughout industries and equally grim predictions being voiced in media. Still, in every single case, we have managed to rebound by changing the system in a way that would work by new rules.

What Can Be Done to Resume Business Travel?

Travel During COVID-19

As with every aspect of the pandemic, overcoming the challenge will take a coordinated effort. In this case, both travel companies and corporate entities will have to come up with adjustments on their side to make business trips possible.

Airline companies will have to review their sanitation and hygiene procedures to ensure adequate safety and win clients’ trust. On top of that, they could add flexibility in their flight change and cancellation policies to make it more convenient and less taxing for passengers. Some advancements in digital services would also be welcome, such as adding the ability to reschedule a trip online using only a travel modem router. The same applies to hotels and other elements of the hospitality infrastructure.

On the other hand, business entities may want to extend the scope of their duty-of-care practices beyond the basic safety considerations. They may also try and negotiate more favorable terms of travel services to cut down on financial losses. Finally, certain quality-of-life improvements in digital asset management will be welcome, like offering their employees a WiFi device for travel, a corporate online service for managing trips or a corporate data plan to accommodate their business needs.

How to Stay Safe During Business Travel

While policy-level changes are undoubtedly important for safe travel, they would not work without respective changes in people’s daily habits and behaviors. Here are some helpful tips to stay safe and protect others from risks:

Carry personal protective equipment: The importance of PPE in travel context is hard to overestimate, with aircraft being viewed as the most threatening vehicle of transmission for COVID-19 (and rightfully so). Do not skip on your face masks, hand sanitizers, and disposable gloves!

Mind the high-touch surfaces: Touching your face is a persistent habit that is surprisingly difficult to overcome. This is particularly threatening in public spaces, which have an abundance of surfaces that can carry the virus over. Learn to identify these surfaces and sanitize your hands after the contact as soon as possible.

Consider not shaking hands: Handshaking has been around as a key component of business ethics for centuries, so it is unlikely it will be gone any time soon. Nevertheless, some companies are already coming to terms with the idea of avoiding physical contact to reduce the risk, so you might as well join the effort.

Switch to digital: Digitalization offers numerous convenient ways to minimize virus spread, from ordering services online to using paperless documents. When planning a trip, check which of your items can be substituted with digital counterparts and don’t forget to have your travel WiFi modem configured to connect whenever you want – or, at the very least, learn how to set up a mobile hotspot as a backup plan.

What Business Travel Accessories Are Essential

Seasoned travelers usually have their set of accessories to accompany them during trips. To make sure yours is on par with the current requirements, here’s a checklist of new entries:

  1. A PPE kit with disinfecting wipes, a sanitizer, tissues, spare masks, and gloves.
  2. Bottled water and a pack of snacks to reduce the number of visits to local stores.
  3. A travel WiFi modem suitable for secure business communication.
  4. A universal charger and/or a travel adapter to power your devices.
  5. A lightweight blanket and/or pillow (airlines don’t offer those anymore due to safety concerns).

The Future of Travel: Not as Grim as it Feels

Despite the ongoing digitalization, travel remains essential for business. So, while it won’t be the same in the oncoming years, it definitely won’t cease to exist, either. Instead, it will readjust to comply with new safety requirements. As always, some changes will be more annoying than others, and some, like streamlined booking and rescheduling, will even be welcome. The nect TEAM is playing its part to ensure you are always connected, so it is up to you to prepare for the new normal and make your transition as smooth as possible.

All illustrations are created by Lucy Ivanova, a Chief Creative Officer at nect.

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