Corporate travel is making a slow but steady rebound.
According to the third phase of a combined multinational ‘State of the Market’ survey by global TMC, FCM Travel Solutions, and SME-specialist business travel provider Corporate Traveller, fifty percent of organizations have begun travelling again, but with stipulations.
The latest phase of the survey examined a new path forward for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, as corporate travel resumes amid new safety and hygiene requirements and protocols.
While 50% of respondents said they have employees already travelling or booking reservations to travel in the near future, resuming travel will be different for everyone. The combined results of the State of the Market research (April to August 2020) shows that over 90% of businesses indicated that they planned to travel domestically and short haul international flights, within three months of governments re-opening borders and lifting restrictions such as quarantine.
Yet the number of trips taken will likely be lower, as only 26% of businesses are planning to return to their pre-COVID-19 levels for domestic travel during 2021.
The remaining 74% of businesses predict reduced domestic travel for the immediate year ahead. Pre-COVID the average number of business trips per traveler was 6-8 per year; this number is likely to fall between 3 and 4 trips per person, per year until 2023.
Clients still have long-haul travel plans on hold indefinitely, as they assess the balance between need and safety. In particular, national businesses in USA, Australia, China and New Zealand were less likely to have long-haul international plans for 2021, indicating only domestic and short-haul international travel will be planned for next year. 29% of respondents from China said they won’t be travelling long haul, while 22% of respondents in New Zealand, 16% in Australia and 7% in the USA indicated the same.
“As travel restrictions are lifted and we all resume our lives in ‘the new normal’, it’s important that we establish a path forward as a business and as an industry,” said Charlene Leiss, President of Flight Centre Travel Group, Americas, FCM and Corporate Traveller’s parent company. “Understanding how businesses are moving forward with their travel programs, what factors have the biggest impacts on their policies, how they’re adjusting their policies, and what is influencing their behavior, will us to understand how to best serve them.”
To that end, Leiss and her team remain cognizant of the fact that triggers for business travel include traveling when safe (vaccine or virus eradicated), borders reopening, traveller confidence increasing and the ability to appropriately track travelers. Moreover, the study revealed that the future of travel buying behavior will be influenced by:
In addition to focusing on budgets, traveller confidence and safety procedures, businesses large and small are re-evaluating their travel policies in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever before, a travel policy ensures businesses have set guidelines around traveller safety, budgets, required documentation and purpose for travel, while empowering employees to use careful judgement when booking and incurring travels expenses. 84% of businesses interviewed have active travel policies, either at a national or global level.
During COVID-19, 40% of respondents who had existing policies introduced interim travel policies, providing more restrictive guidelines for travellers. Interim policies include varying definitions of indefinite travel bans, classifications for business-critical travel (where safe), new approval procedures, general guidelines for changed supplier services and procedures for business meetings. 50% of customers are making further changes to their policy as travel resumes. Priorities of revised policies include: