Election Season Savvy Travel Tips for Business Travellers

4 min read

JOHANNESBURG – Business travellers are accustomed to the occasional travel hiccup or security risk that comes with the territory. However, national elections bring an entirely different level of complexity and unpredictability that travel managers and employees need to plan for. This is according to Bonnie Smith, GM of Corporate Traveller.

“National elections aren’t like any other travel scenario because the sphere of uncertainty is so high,” says Smith. “You’re not just dealing with factors like transport delays or hotel staffing shortages. Emotions can run high, meaning companies and business travellers should be prepared for the potential for an increased volatility risk. While South Africa’s democratic process has historically been peaceful, being prepared for the unexpected is just smart business.”

No election day is complete without a spike in demand for travel services, so you’d be wise to get your ducks in a row well before May 29. That means locking in your flights, rental vehicles, accommodation and anything else early to avoid shortages and price surges, suggests Smith. 

Whether your corporate journeys have you crisscrossing the rainbow nation or taking you further afield during this period, here’s the intelligence you need to travel smart.

Your voting rights: How to exercise your democratic duty

Just because you’ll be living out of a suitcase doesn’t mean you can’t make your voice heard at the polls. If you are away from your registered voting district on election day, you can still get in on the action by applying for a special vote between April 15 and May 32024.

“Not being able to vote due to work travel is a massive frustration for business travellers,” says Smith. “The special vote process gives you that flexibility, but you have to be proactive about it well ahead of time.”

To join the special voters club, you’ve got three easy options: zip off an email to info@elections.org.za with all your details, fire off an SMS with your name, ID number and voting district to 32249, or make a house call appointment at your local IEC office. Ensure you have your ID book and proof of residence ready to roll. Special voting will then take place on May 27 and 28, and you will be required to vote at the voting station where you are registered.

For South African citizens who will be outside the country on May 29, you still have the opportunity to cast a special vote at your nearest South African mission or embassy. To vote overseas, you must submit written notification online at elections.org.za or by delivering a form to your local IEC office. This notification must be submitted between February 26 and April 22 2024.

The IEC will follow up with you via SMS, and voting will occur on May 17 and 18, 2024, at whichever South African mission you indicated in your notification. When voting, you must present your South African ID book/card and passport.

“For business travellers who know they’ll be deployed internationally in late May, getting that overseas voting notification submitted early is critical,” says Smith. Voters taking advantage of this special overseas voting procedure will receive just one ballot – the national ballot. But it still ensures your voice can be heard in this pivotal election no matter where your travels may take you.

What travel managers need to prep for

Both the traveller and the company’s travel manager must be fully aligned on preparations and policies. “Travellers should not be afraid to make specific requests to ensure their safety and ability to exercise their voting rights,” says Smith. For companies, ensuring your employees’ physical safety has to be the top priority, alongside protecting your ability to operate if disruptions occur, she adds.

Her advice? Review and potentially restrict travel to higher-risk areas, heighten check-in protocols so your people can be accounted for, and contract secure accommodations, transport and workspaces away from potential hotspots. If you work with a travel management company (TMC), this is the time they can add value.

“Leverage your TMC for proactive monitoring of election-related developments and potential disruptions, collaborative contingency planning for situations like flight cancellations, and centralised communication and 24/7 support for travellers facing unforeseen circumstances,” says Smith.

Holidaze: How a public holiday affects your travel agenda

Here’s the good news: you’ve got a countrywide public holiday to look forward to on May 29 as South Africa goes to the polls. Translation? A glorious reprieve from the back-to-back grind in your schedule – after you have voted.

The not-so-good news? This exodus to voting stations means roadways, airports, and just about every mode of transit will feel more congested.

“Be proactive about adding extra buffer times to your trips and keep close tabs on your transit details as schedules could be disrupted. If you can, steer clear of any areas with scheduled poll monitoring, political rallies or victory celebrations, and adhere to directives from local authorities regarding road closures or safety protocols,” advises Smith.