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The future of Business Travel – How we will travel post COVID-19

While the healthcare industry and its health workers are on the front-line fighting to beat the devastation Coronavirus has caused all over the world, the majority of us are doing our part in “flattening the curve” with self-isolation and adapting to the new measures put upon us.

 

The global COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted all industries across the world. A few for the good (such as home-fitness gear, online communication, telehealth), but many not-so-good. As a consequence, companies are laying-off an unprecedented number of employees, sending employees into short-time working, and forcing people to stay at home—all while countless businesses fight hard to avoid bankruptcy.

 

A few industries like travel have been hit hard. Hotels are closed, people are not allowed to travel, businesses have predominantly switched operating from a home office, and unfortunately, we are already seeing some consolidation happening in the travel market.

 

In a widely connected global world, people will still travel “post-Corona”, including business travelers, but things will be different. Here are my thoughts on how COVID-19 will be changing the travel industry:

1. The new “normal”

In the post-COVID world, Travel Managers will probably implement tighter rules and restrictions for business travelers within their travel policy. We may hypothesize what those tighter restrictions will be, but it’s likely they will include a full COVID/Health program for all business travellers.

 

Travelers and Travel Managers alike are more sensitive to hygienic environments, safety protocols, insurance and better frictionless booking experiences (including online booking and self-check-in services).

 

It’s possible that a new standard of health certification (e.g. Certificate of COVID immunity) could come into play for businesses in service industries to ensure community safety and to maintain trust.

 

Pushed even further, this concept could even eventuate into travelers requiring a certificate or stamp of health to accompany their passport when crossing international borders.

2. Standardized and sanitized

Now more than ever people are conscious about their health. From washing their hands thoroughly to wearing facemasks as a standard piece of clothing. These acts will become more habitual, while new personal health measures will take hold of common society.

 

As an example, supermarkets and pharmacies have placed clear perspex screens in front of the cash registers as a simple way to protect themselves from being in contact with airborne germs. After the coronavirus pandemic subsides, it is unlikely things like that will be removed.

 

Having apartments professionally sanitized will become a new standard or at least an additional requirement of both, business and leisure travellers.

3. Duty of care system for travellers safety

As the pandemic comes and goes, business travel will bounce back quicker than holiday-makers, but the impacts and focus on public and employee health will become more prominent. More than ever companies will take more responsibility for employee health and their well-being, particularly when it comes to business travelers.

 

Knowing where your employees are traveling to, where they’re staying, and who they’re meeting will become a greater concern. Hence, it’s possible that companies will more actively implement Duty of Care systems (such as WorldAware, Amex GBT, BCD Travel, United Healthcare Global) to have a better view and understanding of where their employees are when traveling for work.

 

What does it mean for online travel platforms?

Integrating world duty of care systems in their service offering will serve several benefits:

  1. It’ll become a competitive advantage against those who don’t have the capability.
  2. Without intruding on employees personal privacy, it should give employers greater peace of mind knowing not only where their employees are, but also where they are staying, and who their emergency contacts are.
  3. Having a better level of insight into employees’ location may also impact the company’s insurance premiums and coverage.

4. Health Insurance packages will not longer be “avoided” if you book your travel

Insurance packages are typically optional add-ons to service offerings. But, as many travelers have experienced some form of loss during the pandemic, such as losing deposits, flights, and accommodation bookings, the market may either start to seriously consider travel insurance options or companies may expect employees to choose insurance by default – as a new company (travel) policy.

 

Furthermore, as economies attempt to rebuild what they have lost as quickly as possible, a new type of insurance may appear. Having ‘Global Health Insurance Coverage’ could become a mandatory measure for companies to factor into their travel policies, to protect themselves and their employees if countries go back into lock-down and the business travelers are stranded.

5. Itinerary essentials now include flexible booking policies

Cancellations, vouchers and refunds have been a hot topic during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has affected both business and consumer travelers, but also placed many companies under pressure to handle the sheer volume of requests in a logical, economic, and empathetic manner.

 

What has been highly demanded by business travelers, which has been partially implemented across hotel chains and more limited in the mid-stay sector, is free or flexible cancellation policies. This practical measure provides some relief on Customer Support Departments in reducing the number of worried or aggravated customers, while also providing customers with a sense of comfort and peace of mind to know that their potential financial loss is minimised.

 

The overall outcome of this turbulent time will mean free or flexible cancellation policies will either become a standard product benefit or an attractive optional extra for most players in the travel industry.

 

Upselling customers to include insurance packages and other assurance-related offerings have typically been something easier for customers to skip during the booking process. During and post-COVID we will see this step taking greater influence in a customer’s purchase consideration as travelers become more risk-averse, especially when booking months in advance.

 

We at Homelike have been focused on free cancellation policies well before COVID-19 struck. In close collaboration with our respected property suppliers, we already offer thousands of apartments with a free cancellation policy and see this number increasing constantly.

 

As a result, this is now helping businesses travelers to make more flexible choices when it comes to their next trip.

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