As much of the world is still working from the kitchen counter, COVID-19 restrictions and, thus, travel restrictions are starting to loosen in some regions. But just because it may be safer to travel in a particular country, is your business really ready to travel to that particular country?
As the world looks forward, however, expect to see more borders beginning to open, more restrictions starting to ease, and more travel corridors coming back on line. And when this happens, the number of business travellers will no doubt take off.
Which makes now the time to start getting ready – not just for travel, but for safer travel.
Preapproval can’t be an afterthought.
As business travel begins to inch forward, travel managers are responding swiftly to employee concerns, making near- and long-term changes to travel programs. 40%, for example, are now requiring pre-trip approvals for business travel.
Typically, these pre-trip approvals have been mandated by cost-control concerns (it’s far easier to stay on top of expenses when you know who’s going where and what they’re planning to spend), but as countries around the world continue to reshape COVID-19 restrictions, advanced approvals can dramatically impact traveller safety.
Think about it from a travel management standpoint: You’ll know where employees are going before they go, so you’ll know if there are quarantine requirements; you’ll know about testing, masking, and other mandates; and you’ll know if they’ll be able to get into (or, more importantly, out of) a country where rules are changing daily.
In a post-pandemic world, preapprovals aren’t only about cost savings, they’re key to your duty of care.
If this trip isn’t essential, is it still okay?
Pre-trip approvals are essential, but you can’t depend solely on that process to keep employees from heading out when they shouldn’t be.
Your company needs to define for itself what makes a trip essential as well as what is merely permissible. Think about the types of travel you’d readily approve, the scenarios that are critical for your company to be part of, the business needs that can only be met by travelling – these are the parameters you have to establish to keep people on the ground before the world is fully ready to go.
Then, of course, you need to make those restrictions abundantly clear to travellers and put safeguards in place to make sure the rules don’t get broken.
As far as permissible travel goes, the guidelines are a little blurrier. You need to understand what’s going on in each of your markets and compare those needs to your organisational risk tolerances.
Specifically, you must be able to capture and communicate each country’s travel rules and requirements during the booking process. So if someone is bound for Japan (or departing Japan), you need to be ready to deal with those particular regulations. Testing regimes, quarantine requirements, and current infection levels, for example, will influence travellers.
You’ll also want to examine your company’s insurance and health coverage – as well as the medical systems in the region where you’re sending employees. Will they be covered by your plans in each country? And are the hospitals in that country currently overwhelmed?
Your answers to these questions will help clarify what’s permissible and what’s inexcusable.
Are you getting all this?
Data has always been king, and you can be assured that as the world re-emerges from its stay-at-home pandemic proclivities, tracking travel details is going to be more important than ever.
Are you confident in your current pre-trip approval process? Are you capturing all the data, and is it all pulled together so you know at a glance who’s booking, who’s in the air, who decided to stay home, and who can’t get home because of a surprise quarantine?
And if you can get your hands on that data, can you reach those travellers in an instant to provide support?
Many companies are consolidating travel management into a single TMC to centralise that data and simplify the process. TMCs, for their part, are working feverishly to make the changes necessary to support and protect travellers in this unpredictable landscape. So be sure to review their pricing models and any new or updated services they’re offering for pre-, during-, and post-trip security. And remember, TMCs aren’t just a ticketing service, they’re a way to protect your travellers during the trip itself.
Nothing is certain, and that’s for sure.
Border requirements are changing virtually every day in literally every market, so you need to stay in close contact with your TMC and booking-tool technology providers to make sure you’re getting accurate information and immediate updates. These resources are imperative, and Deloitte is working closely with its partners to offer simple travel tools that keep travellers safe and compliance in check. See how.
We’re emerging from this pandemic, and while things might not be perfect, now is the best time to review your travel program and get ready to return to the road. Get tips and more here.