With a mix of excitement and apprehension, I took my first work trip, from Madrid to London, since the pandemic and it was really great to travel for business again!.
I think we all have a bit of virtual communication fatigue so attending an in-person industry conference was a nice change of pace. I know it is obvious, but I can only re-confirm that there is absolutely nothing like a face-to-face meeting to get to know customers and build relationships.
For many business travelers, like myself, travel can be consuming and at the same time enrich our lives and work experiences. We’re missing the road and the experiences that come with traveling – making new connections that go beyond “just doing business.”
So, how can we align our travel planning mindset to the COVID-era and get back to being proactive road warriors?
With the rise in vaccination rates, businesses across the world are planning to resume travel this year. An Amadeus-commissioned survey echoed the mindset, with 50% of survey respondents indicating they will travel for business to a destination requiring a flight before the end of the year. Although we can’t predict how business travel will evolve and at what pace, I believe information and technology will play a key role in building confidence among business travelers and organizations.
And in this COVID-era, what’s more certain is that business trips will require greater planning and preparation – both on the part of companies and their employees. Here are some things to consider before hitting the road or flying the friendly skies:
Information is power
The Amadeus-commissioned survey finds that technology and innovation are key in building traveler confidence with over 40% of survey respondents identifying mobile applications that provide on-trip notifications and alerts, self-service check-in, contactless mobile payments, e.g., Apple Pay, as top technologies that will increase confidence in travel.
The biggest concern travelers noted during this time is changing restrictions resulting in last minute cancellations (37%). Technology that gives travelers the availability of full information at point of search, booking and just before travel will address those concerns and give them confidence to travel. Corporations should be in a position to provide information on status, regulations and requirements for the destination. Travelers can also use services like digital travel assistant Feasy to stay updated.
Even with concerns, 97% of survey respondents say that technology will increase their confidence to travel in the next 12 months. This confidence assessment has increased from 91% in February 2021 and 84% in September 2020.
While the industry is making inroads to provide touchless touchpoints in the traveler journey, at check-in, bag drop and boarding, business travelers should digitize everything they can. Download apps for mobile boarding passes with airlines and digital keys with hotels, register for biometric screening where available and up the game in contactless payments. Consider that some vendors may be cashless now, so have your credit card ready. You can also set up Apple Pay or Google Pay and/or make sure your credit card has tap to pay technology.
Even when it comes to local train connections, you can expedite the process. For my business trip to London, I pre-purchased the Heathrow Express ticket online and downloaded it to my digital wallet. It made taking the high-speed train from Heathrow to Paddington much more seamless.
Think before you pack
Business travelers will need to think twice when planning for their first COVID-era trip, e.g. hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes, multiple masks and snacks to minimize time and interacting with others, as well as considering travel insurance protection to cover any delays, cancellations and medical expenses that could arise during this time. If you’re on a long-haul flight, find out if the plane will serve a complimentary meal. If it’s a short trip, they are likely to serve just a snack so make sure to buy food and drink to bring with you on the plane.
Confirm on-site protocols
As we navigate meetings and conferences, travelers and companies will be responsible for more than just travel. There will need to be discussions on social distancing and meeting facility guidelines and practices. Does the building you’re visiting need notice ahead of time? Will individually packaged food be catered for the meeting or do you need to make reservations for meals? And, of course, establish a new greeting sign (fist bump, elbow tap or waving).
Travel may look different from one destination to another, so we all need to prepare accordingly to make the adjustment much more manageable and as stress free as possible. Personally, I am really looking forward to my next trip.
Paul de Villiers - Senior Vice President, Global Accounts at Amadeus