The Flight Centre Travel Group’s Corporate Brands (FCM Travel Solutions, Corporate Traveller and Flight Centre Business Travel) have welcomed the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that business travel will be phased in gradually under Level 3 regulations.
“Although there is still a lot of uncertainty as to what the easing of the restrictions on business travel will entail, President Ramaphosa’s announcement indicates that there is light at the end of the tunnel for business travellers,” says Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller and Flight Centre Business Travel.
As companies and business travellers contemplate the return of business travel, there are a number of factors to consider, as we can expect to see significant operational changes from airports, airlines and hotels, explains Desai.
Airports will introduce more stringent health checks and airlines will have air quality controls onboard as hygiene and safety is an essential concern. Discussions surrounding the dreaded middle seat in airplanes will be ongoing, and we’re likely to see a more automated and ‘touchless’ travel experience.
The Travel Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) further outlined that high-risk travellers (those above the age of 60 and those with underlying health issues) are recommended not to travel. The guidelines compiled by TBCSA also indicate that travellers could be asked to complete a health document, and that hotels are likely to introduce stringent health measures. These measures could include reduced linen change frequencies, the end of the turndown service, the removal of cushions and throws, and empty mini bars.
The new travel landscape highlights the importance of having a clear and transparent travel policy, even for domestic travel, says Desai. “With unprecedented times comes the need for flexibility, especially with something as important as travel policy. An interim travel policy created for this specific situation is the best way forward and will highlight responsibilities, duty of care and destination restrictions.”
Although there is no crystal ball to tell us when exactly travel will return, or what we can expect to change, we know that heightened hygiene measures stemming from COVID-19 will be a critical part of travel moving forward, adds Bonnie Smith, GM FCM Travel Solutions.
The uncertainty around the COVID-19 outbreak could lead to anxiety for travellers, says Smith. “Some employees might find themselves questioning whether they really need to travel to do their job effectively. If the answer is yes, it’s essential to make sure staff feel comfortable getting back on the road and confident that their safety and wellbeing is prioritised. A comprehensive risk management and duty of care programme is therefore essential.”
Although the re-introduction of limited business travel under Level 3 regulations is a positive development, the reality is that COVID-19 has forever changed business travel. As a result, a one-size-fits-all is no longer a feasible approach to travel management or travel risk. Instead, the post-COVID era will see a demand for in-depth, personalised and dynamic travel management adapted to a company’s unique requirements. So, reach out to your Travel Management Company for assistance in these uncertain times to help you navigate your travel obligations.