By Marisa Cannon, Globetrender Forecaster
Please note that the information below is Globetrender’s own and American Express Global Business Travel makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, with respect to any information contained here.
Flexibility is the word on every travel buyer’s lips these days. A poll from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) published in July 2020 found that more than half of travel management companies (TMCs) have changed their travel policies to include clarifications around unused tickets and more detailed pre-trip communications, a trend that is set only to intensify as business travelers look to safeguard their trips against evolving travel restrictions.
Free cancellations, date changes, and elite status extensions are now standard among major hotels and airlines, with United permanently eliminating change fees on economy and premium bookings for flights within the US. Delta is waiving change fees until September 2022, and Qatar Airways is allowing unlimited date changes until the end of 2020.
In the same vein, members of elite airline clubs such as Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo Club, United’s MileagePlus, and British Airways’ Executive Club will benefit from a one-year extension on their status, notwithstanding several caveats. Major hotel groups such as Marriott, Hilton, and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) have instated short-term extensions on their cancellation policies, while Langham Hotels has gone further, extending its policy to offer full refunds on all stays up to Dec. 18, 2020.
While demand for flexibility continues to soar, the current situation has reinforced the importance of giving business travelers access to comprehensive offers that also meet their company’s biosafety standards, and pressure is on travel management companies to provide this visibility.
“For hotel bookings, there could be a range of rates for a property, such as your corporate negotiated rate, the TMC’s own special rate, or from providers such as Booking.com or Expedia,” says Margaret Bowler, director of global hotel strategy at American Express Global Business Travel. “But as long as you’re booking via the TMC channel, we can help determine which is the best rate for you, factoring in price, flexibility of cancellation terms, and what amenities are included.”
As country entry requirements continue to shift, business travelers will look to cover all bases in the event of a sudden border closure, ensuring “know before you go” information is at their fingertips. Travel managers are looking to meet these demands through security alerts, interactive risk destination mapping, and COVID-19 dashboards, offering information on the spread of the virus and health risk ratings for most frequently visited destinations. Having access to real-time updates on area lockdowns, quarantine measures, and flight restrictions will be nonnegotiable for employees returning to business travel.
For more trends, data, interviews, and analysis, download Globetrender’s free report on the Future of Business Travel, sponsored by American Express Global Business Travel.