The likelihood of country borders opening has increased as governments ramp up their Covid-19 vaccination programmes. This bodes well for the global economy, trade and business activity.
For companies, this means that international travel may be on the cards, for their employees, soon.
How to Plan business travel in the new normal
There is no denying that the pandemic has changed travel especially cross-border trips.
Now, more than ever, employee health is a major concern for businesses managers and their travellers.
Health, safety and flexibility should always be prioritised when business travel arrangements are made in the current environment and in a post-pandemic world.
Here, we cover the foundation of corporate travel arrangements in the new normal. It starts with planning carefully based on information provided by a few, trusted sources.
Unfortunately, our new normal is also an era of false and fake news, so identify and use the latest updates from trusted sources of information to guide your decision-making process.
- Location-specific travel advisory guidelines can be obtained from official government websites as well as credible organisations such as the World Health Organisation, International Air Transport Association and International SOS.
- The Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Centre maps the global virus outbreak data and trends.
1. Plan with Care
Before making any travel arrangements, senior management should sit down (possibly virtually) and agree on the definition of essential and non-essential travel.
- To come up with the criteria, consider possible alternatives to an in-person trip and if the trip will bring about a desired business goal or sale.
- Business travel planning should also include a risk analysis where factors such as the number of Covid cases in the destination country, employees’ health, duration of the trip and the likelihood of exposure to viruses are evaluated.
- It is also important for managers to speak to their employees, that may be required to travel, to understand their concerns. This will provide a big picture of where to focus your efforts to best support your travelling colleagues.
Look to work with a business travel agency or provider that understand the current environment and responsive to changes.
- Pick an agency that is flexible as you may have to deal with more cancellations and request refunds as compared to pre-pandemic days.
- A good business travel agency will allow you to dynamically manage the travel plans for your travelling employees based on the real-time situation on the ground.
- Identify credible testing centres that can perform Covid-19 screening in the home and destination country.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting tested no more than three days before travelling. In some countries, arriving travellers may need to get tested so do the legwork for them before they depart.
- You may also want your employees to get tested for Covid-19, between three to five days, when they get back from an overseas trip. This can be part of your company’s travel-related policies.
2. Get ready for anything
Get your traveling colleagues to check and update their travel documents and their vaccination certificates.
- Check expiry dates of their documents and ensure that you have their latest contact details.
- Employees that are going to travel must be mentally prepared for potential delays, inconveniences and quite likely, frustration, as unexpected events can occur at any time. It is very possible that airplanes are suddenly grounded for emergency cleaning or governments change their quarantine policies and procedures overnight.
- Establish safety protocols such as emergency communication and evacuation plans before anyone starts to travel. This way you and your colleagues know exactly what to do should travelling employees get into sticky situations or meets with an emergency.
- Ideally, establish an emergency response team that is able to make important decisions during such an event.
A responsible business travel agency can play an important role in providing evacuation support as well as real-time information on travel disruptions and events.
- Besides getting ready for possible worse-case scenarios, check your company’s business travel insurance policies.
- Update these policies if it doesn’t cater for pandemic-related incidents.
- You may need to customise a travel insurance policy based on your company and employees’ specific needs.
3. Safety first
Encourage your employees and colleagues to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus at all times.
- Ask them to consider the safety of other people as well.
- For example, before agreeing to travel, consider if they are at risk for severe illness or if they are living with someone that is at increased risk for severe illness.
- Traveling safe in current times is centred on social distancing measures, good personal hygiene and a strict mask-wearing discipline.
Go here for more tips on staying safe when travelling.
- Employees that are going to travel should be given emergency numbers and asked to update and carry their medical records with the latest information and contact details.
- Clearly, they must also activate notifications on their phones to receive the latest news at all times.
- Also make it clear that they should not travel if they are not feeling well.
- The same restriction applies if they are waiting for results of a Covid-19 test or have been in close contact with someone that is suspected or diagnosed with Covid-19 recently.
The person that will manage and oversee business travel for employees and colleagues, in the new normal, clearly has a lot to do and a lot to consider.
Besides ensuring safety and getting travellers ready for their trips, you will have to control the company’s total travel spending and budgets.
As you do the preparatory groundwork, look for ways that technology and third-party organisations can help you.
in unprecedented times, It pays to partner with experts to support safe travels.