We all know that industries across the spectrum have had to adapt and readapt for the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true for the global business travel market, an industry that isn’t expected to fully recover until 2025, after losing more than $710 billion in the last year.
However, while online meetings have kept companies moving forward over the last year, some business travel will always be necessary, whether it is for short-term trips to close a sale or long-term assignments overseas. With vaccine rollouts steadily underway across the globe, what does the future of business travel look like? And what challenges should corporations be ready for?
The Ease of Working from Home
In truth, the chances of contracting COVID-19 on a flight are low, thanks to the way air is filtered throughout the cabin, combined with social distancing and masks. However, that doesn’t change the perception of sitting in a small space with dozens of strangers that could make travelers uncomfortable in the short-term. This issue could also be exacerbated by the destination, depending on the transmission rates or safety protocols in the area. With video conferencing becoming the norm over the last year, wary workers may opt to continue this trend while COVID-19 spread is still a major threat.
But looking at this issue long term, many employees have become comfortable working out of their homes and connecting immediately online, rather than taking the time to travel long distances. A recent study found that more than 50 percent of workers would like to continue to work remotely. With the comfort of working from home, and proven tools to do it effectively, global corporations are likely looking at the return of the mobility premium, especially for long-term assignments. While persuading employees to work oversees has been easy over the last few years, companies could now be looking at hefty financial incentives. This is especially true for countries or areas that have shown the weaknesses in their medical services. Companies need to be prepared to navigate the concerns and expectations of mobile employees that may not have been there in recent years.
Business travel, especially internationally, has always been complex. Reporting mandates, visas and tax compliance laws were already challenging to navigate. And while the scale of business travel may take years to recover, the complexities will still be there from the start. In fact, corporations could be looking at even more complicated requirements – including health tracking. Various countries, and even U.S. states, will have different travel restrictions and checks. Companies will have to keep a closer eye on where their employees have traveled, ensuring they are traveling both to and from safe locations.
Visa applications will likely look different and have tougher requirements. It might even be more difficult to secure visas for employees that had to be furloughed or taken reduced wages. In some cases, automated systems, like Equus Software, may be the only option to stay on top of the new and changing mandates.
The Need for Better Communication Strategies
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that our circumstances can change at a moment’s notice. As business travel, both short and long-term, starts to pick up again, companies must continue to recognize their responsibility to have clear communication and decision-making protocols, as well as accountability procedures in place.
As restrictions and requirements change, even in a post-COVID world, corporations will need to ensure that mobile employees are aware and understand the changing landscape. In the event of another health crisis, or any incident, companies that are requiring business travel will be expected to have procedures already in place, ready to deal with the situation and get their employees home safely.
The COVID-19 pandemic won’t be with us forever, but the effects will be felt for years to come. Now is the time for corporations to ensure that they are prepared for challenges that lay ahead as we start our return to normal.
Written by Tyler Reynolds. Have you read?
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