Travel will be “Essential”

Will Travel be “essential”?

“Normal life” is on hold. Most of us are staying in our homes and –  though it may not seem the most important thing right now – the European business travel platforms are suffering a dramatic drop in usage.

Those of us who are involved in this industry are, understandably, concerned about what might happen next. Speculation is unhelpful. All we can say for now is that, to ease the pressures on health care systems, the current lockdown situation seems likely to be eased off gradually.

On the way to ‘lockdown” we passed through a brief phase where many governments and companies were asking people to restrict themselves to “Essential Travel Only”. It didn’t last long – those instructions soon became “stay at home”. But eventually the lockdown will ease. The question then is will we go back to the old “business (travel) as usual”? I think we might not, but rather re-baseline our policies around the notion of “essential travel only”.

Here’s some reasons why:

1 – These are unprecedented times. Most companies’ balance sheets will be under strain for an extended period – so even as our situation evolves, cost control will be a strong driver of policy and T&E spend is always a target during a recession.

2 – We are testing the viability of remote working in our millions. Clearly, some issues will be harder to manage remotely than others – onboarding new team members for example. But  organisations are learning that, thanks to bandwidth and collaboration technologies, many aspects of our daily business interactions work fine this way.

3 – Before Covid-19 hit, momentum was already growing for a serious shift in behavior to combat climate change. People were being “Flight Shamed”. The Business Travel sector was starting to respond – but prevailing opinion was that people would inevitably need to travel and not much of substance could be achieved.

That has been disproved in a matter of weeks – we now know that individuals, companies, and entire countries can change how they operate at the drop of a hat. So once we emerge from this short-term crisis and start to focus on the longer term threat of climate breakdown, we will be assessing strategies and policies in light of the new ways of working we are learning now.

4 – For many, this merging of family and work lives is new territory. We talk of work / life balance but rarely see them merge to the extent we have over the last few weeks. We have learned more about our colleagues in this short time than in years of working together.

Post-Covid, the assessment of if a business trip is “essential” will be a multi-variant and differently balanced equation. Is the cost to the environment, the company and the cost in time and family disruption to the employee really worth it?  … Given we can probably get the meeting done just fine on zoom/webex/bluejeans/slack/etc.

Tracking the impact of the crisis and helping our clients manage and keep safe is our immediate concern and the focus of everyone, everyday here at Traveldoo. For the longer term we will be tracking how the experiences we are all having now might influence the evolution of business and business travel into something kinder to the planet and to our lives as employees.

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