Being flexible and anticipating some uncertainty will help business travelers get back on the road (Getty Images / valentinrussanov)
After months of closures and a more recent easing of restrictions, the business travel case is under scrutiny. While many are eager to establish some level of face-to-face contact with colleagues and clients, organizations are applying a different lens to travel planning, which includes sustainability.
Victoria DeBoon, sales manager for SAP Concur Canada in Vancouver, says her latest global travel survey shows business travelers are ready to hit the road, and for good reason.
According to the survey, 96 percent of those polled said they were ready to travel within the next 12 months. Additionally, 80% said they feared the inability to increase travel would affect their ability to forge new relationships, sign new agreements, renew contracts, and run their business.
DeBoon says the key issue for the future is dealing with uncertainty. “Travel decisions are largely based on risk factors for organizations and the individual traveler. Plans are put in place on the assumption that things may change based on directives, as well as concerns for the comfort and safety of staff. ”
Those planning the trip are much more vigilant about cancellation policies and potential penalties for flights, cars and hotels, she notes. “A main question is how to pivot without having a financial impact,” she says.
There is no doubt that the health and safety of employees is a top priority, adds DeBoon. To that end, they look for more established hotels with clear policies regarding social distancing, easy-to-access dining areas, and local risk factors.
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For the most part, travel plans are a phased approach, with domestic travel first, the United States second, and other international destinations further afield, DeBoon notes.
At Xperigo, a roadside assistance management service, plans are also to facilitate travel within Canada (primarily between its Toronto and Moncton sites), with possible expansion into the United States eventually. International travel beyond the United States would be a third phase, says Shelly Cohen-Bhamani, vice president, talent and culture.
“People are excited to do it, but they’re also careful,” she says. “The number one priority is that the team members have to be comfortable and willing to do it. This is why we did not set up a travel budget before 2022. ”
Carré Le Page, vice president of marketing for the corporate division of Flight Center Travel Group in Vancouver, said that outside of industries, such as mining and manufacturing where business travel continued during the pandemic , the interest of other sectors is slowly returning. “Businesses have travelers who want to go out and see customers. The key is the ability to be flexible in times of uncertainty, ”he says.
The SAP Concur investigation confirms this. More than 70 percent of respondents indicated that flexibility, such as choosing your transport, accommodation and travel dates, is now the most pressing need of business travelers, ahead of demands related to 62 percent vaccination.
Darrell Jensen, managing partner, risk, at EY Canada, says travel bans have given a significant boost to the organization’s carbon reduction targets that will impact travel plans going forward. . “For 2021, we were carbon negative. Our overall plan is to reduce business travel emissions by 35% from our baseline for fiscal 2019, ”he said.
As the prospect of travel returns, Jensen says their focus on sustainability will continue to play a vital role in their travel decisions. “We need to make smart travel decisions that make sense,” he says. “We encourage people to think about strategies such as seeing other clients or networking with colleagues in the area they are visiting at the same time.”
Customers are definitely on board, he adds. “Often times we find that their strategies and views are aligned with ours,” he says. “People’s mentalities have changed. Our polls show they want to do things differently to move forward.
He adds that domestic and international travel has started to return, albeit slowly. “Now the focus is on whether these trips should take place.”
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