This pause in travel is an opportune moment for corporate travel teams to get their travel programs ready for the future. Here are five areas to assess:
- Shore up duty of care gaps.
As COVID-19 escalated, some companies discovered weak spots in their duty of care programs, while executives recognized importance of having one. Travel managers and security teams should review what worked and what didn’t, before deciding how to build a stronger program.
Start by looking at traveler tracking: How well did the process and technology work? Were there any challenges contacting travelers? Was it easy to communicate? How did the company support stranded travelers and what can be done to improve the experience in the future? Were they kept aware of the situation with updates on travel and health advisories?
For deeper insights, travel managers can survey travelers to help identify any gaps. It’s also a good time to prioritize tasks that often get overlooked, such as making sure travelers’ profile information is up to date or making sure employees understand why a travel policy exists and how it protects them.
- Create a policy fit for the future.
Companies need to know where employees are when they’re traveling on business. Tracking where they plan to go in the future is also needed to curtail unnecessary trips to high-risk destinations. Using pre-trip approval technology, organizations can review employees’ itineraries before they have been ticketed. Travel to high-risk destinations can be flagged automatically.
Organizations should now be planning how they’ll manage business travel once countries and carriers begin easing restrictions. Employees will also need to know how supplier refunds and vouchers are managed. When repatriations efforts started, some companies had difficulties locating employees who booked outside the approved channels – policy compliance, and strategies to enforce it, will therefore take on renewed importance.
- Devise a game plan to manage unused airline tickets and refunds.
According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines are liable for $35 billion in unused tickets globally. Multinational companies may need to track millions of dollars’ worth of vouchers and refunds. While some airlines are pushing vouchers on consumers, corporations and travel management companies (TMCs) responsible for high-yield business travelers have more sway to negotiate refunds, if they so choose. Managing refunds and vouchers will require close monitoring. Some TMCs have credit management systems that aggregate refund, waiver, and voucher information in one place, making it easier to see how many unused tickets they have.
- Connect with suppliers to drive savings on future travel.
Companies have an opportunity to lock in good pricing with rates having declined. According to The Dollar Flight Club, which analyzed airfare pricing after the 9/11 and the global financial crash to help devise its forecast, predicted airfares would drop 35% in 2021. By way of comparison, airfare prices dropped 18% after 9/11 and 21% during the Great Recession. While hotels may reduce rates, too, they may be more willing to negotiate extras, such as flexible cancellation rules and complimentary amenities on future stays. Consolidating suppliers is another route companies may take to optimize their programs. In any case, now is the time to talk to suppliers and map out a mutually beneficial path forward.
- Prepare for an increase in business travel.
As travel returns, there will be a period of transition and adjustment. Countries will ease restrictions at different speeds. Suppliers guidelines may change more regularly. Health screenings and social distancing processes may differ by country, airport, hotel or train station.
Corporate travel teams need to stay on top of developments and do what’s necessary to instill confidence in their people. Proactively seeking travelers’ feedback will help planning. Well-being initiatives should be prioritized. Let’s seize this rare opportunity to get your program in order.
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