Managing the health and wellness of frequent business travellers has become increasingly important over the last few years.
Business travellers contend with everything from lack of sleep and loss of productivity, to work pressures, family stress, illness and burnout.
Good travel management companies (TMCs) prioritise a traveller’s health and wellbeing by looking at the entire journey, the challenges faced and workable ways to mitigate them. This includes avoiding tight connections, booking longer layovers (for bleisure purposes), arranging lounge access – and booking accommodations that offer fitness facilities.
Today, COVID-19 looms large and as business travellers take to the skies once more, health and wellness has never been more important.
According to Oz Desai, General Manager Flight Centre Business Travel (FCBT), here are just five ways a travel expert can help you navigate business travel in a COVID world:
- Putting health and wellness front and centre
Travel experts need to keep their clients or employees safe, but also their families and the wider population. A traveller might be fit and healthy but returning to a family member with co-morbidities.
Today, you have to focus on your client’s destination (what is the current COVID-19 situation on the ground?), their accommodation (are the necessary health and safety protocols in place?), their own circumstances (if they have an underlying health condition, should your travel policy allow them to travel?) – and what you can do to ensure they travel safely and return home healthy.
The mental toll of COVID-19 is significant. Loss of income, survival of one’s business and a desire to ‘get back to normal’ may all play into a business traveller’s need to get back on the road – but this is balanced by a very real fear of the risk COVID-19 poses to one’s own personal health.
TMCs can assist by providing information around:
- Different airline regulations
- New travel policies (for example, health passports or compulsory vaccinations)
- Flexible cancellation policies (in case of illness)
- Recommended health and safety measures (for each step of the traveller journey)
- A destination’s protocols and restrictions (for example, compulsory quarantine for inbound travellers)
Knowledge is power. By demystifying the current red tape associated with business travel and by providing solid advice around health and wellness, TMCs give travellers added peace of mind.
- Keeping an open line of communication
Part of this peace of mind is ongoing communication. Business travellers are entering a dynamic, ever-changing environment. As different destinations (including South Africa) ease or reintroduce lockdown measures, so regulations and requirements change.
A travel expert will stay on top of the situation, providing you with up-to-the-minute information – and making the necessary changes on your behalf.
This might include:
- New travel permits
- Flight changes
- Advice around quarantine regulations (once international travel reopens)
- New travel bans or border closures
Importantly, good channels of communication include honest and comprehensive feedback.
Always chat to your travel agent post-trip, so you can analyse everything from ease of travel, stress levels, productivity, and the guest journey (including hotel stays, connectivity and service).
Desai believes that ‘traveller friction’ and return on investment go hand in hand: “If your traveller is feeling unhappy or burned out, your business travel ROI is going to be affected. Business travel is so much more than getting a client onto a plane and into a boardroom. It’s about time, well-being and ultimately, success.”
Travel consultants can deliver a seamless, relatively stress-free travel experience – but only if you keep the channels of communication open, track data collected from your travels and review your travel plan on a regular basis.
- Never compromising on duty of care
What happens when a border closes – or an unexpected crisis hits? The greatest responsibility of a travel agent is to bring their clients home safely. This is called duty of care, and includes:
- Vetting all travel service providers (airlines, shuttles, accommodation and more)
- Evaluating the risks a traveller might face
- Alerting travellers to any threats nearby
- Liaising with local embassies or consulates
A good TMC is your best port of call in any crisis. Not only will they be able to change your plans quickly and efficiently, but their job is to bring you home.
- Putting bleisure back on the agenda
With interprovincial travel once again open for everyone, bleisure travel is back on the table. Travel experts understand the importance of combining business with leisure. A few days off at the beginning or end of a trip can make a world of difference to a traveller’s health, mental wellbeing and morale.
A TMC will be able to suggest safe bleisure options – very appealing to those who have been cooped up and are now ready to explore either by themselves or with their families in tow!
Without a safe, reliable COVID-19 vaccine, the world is unlikely to return to ‘normal’ any time soon. Travel experts, travel managers and travellers need to be agile and resilient, with health and wellbeing now at the very heart of business travel.