Many people have been pending and even canceling their travel plans due to the pandemic, including the business-related ones. Throughout 2020, the world can see that travels have been limited to contain the spread of Covid-19. But now with restrictions relaxed and organisations are resuming their operations, there is an increment in business travels.
Today, Lauren Crowley, Team Egencia Vice President, People at Expedia Group is here with HR in Asia to share with us what we can expect from the future of travel, and what safety measures need to be adopted to minimise the risk of Coronavirus exposure. Check it out!
Question: The travel industry has evidently had the greatest setback from the pandemic. With countries imposing global restrictions and preventing their citizens from travelling abroad, will this situation have a lasting impact on the future of travel?
Answer: We already see lasting changes in the travel industry as new technologies are created to meet travelers’ evolving needs. To name a few, Expedia Group has scaled customer service and developed new self-service tools that make it easier for travelers and our partners to make schedule changes or cancelations. But some things will stay the same; travel will remain a vital part of people’s lives both personally and professionally. We already see leisure and business travel coming back in different ways.
Our data shows that people want to travel now more than ever; however, they must weigh the risks and benefits. We are seeing a shift from holidays abroad to domestic travel, or travel within the Eurozone, and that demand is growing. Flexible cancelation policies and clear, well-defined hygiene policies have been essential factors in bringing back demand, and vacation rentals have been a critical recovery driver in EMEA. Business travel does not have the same simple shift, but we have seen an increase in domestic travel and car bookings– with domestic bookings growing twice as fast as international, and car bookings growing twice as fast over air.
Question: How about the accommodation and fares? Will the pandemic make business travelling more expensive?
Answer: There’s never been a more affordable time to travel as our partners respond to the changing demand level and continue to put out great travel offers. It used to be that non-refundable rates were the lowest and most readily available price travelers would find when booking their trip. However, in response to the pandemic, much of the travel industry is now offering more refundable rates and even honouring refunds and vouchers on previous bookings that were non-refundable. Airlines have also started removing change fees.
Beyond the travel industry, governments worldwide recognize the value of travel and tourism to their local economies and are offering travelers subsidies to restart travel. We are all working together to help each other through this crisis, and a large part of that is making sure business and leisure travel remains affordable.
Question: Many travellers might be second-guessing their long-planned business trip today. So, in what case business travelers should proceed with their plans, and when they shouldn’t?
Answer: Every company needs to define what essential travel means for them. It’s vital that companies understand the situation in each country as entry restrictions vary, required health documentation changes, and self-quarantine policies evolve. Travel policies need to align with local government advice – Travel Management Companies (TMCs) can help with this.
Travelers also need to be educated on the duty of care to make sure they understand the importance of booking through a TMC to be able to understand where they are if on a business trip, push them important travel alerts on their mobile, and support them on the road if needed.
Question: When essential business trips are required, what are the things that travelers should prioritise?
Answer: Employees need to feel confident the risk of their traveling for work is minimal and they are fully supported from planning to booking to returning home. They need to feel that their wellbeing is a top priority for the company.
It is essential that travelers stay well-Informed about health requirements and hygiene standards for their destination, hotel, car, air, and rail. Lodging partners can highlight their health and hygiene measures including contactless check-in and check-out, hand sanitizer, and enhanced cleaning. Most recently, Egencia added health and hygiene standards directly in the booking path for travelers, so they can make confident choices about their business travel plans.
Question: What are some significant travel trends amidst pandemic that might affect the way people conduct business trips in the long run?
Answer: COVID-19 has allowed companies to redefine what an essential trip is and identify what the returned value of a business trip is for their organization. This could mean fewer trips or fewer travelers per trip, but it’s also likely to mean longer trips too.
There may be even new reasons to travel for business as companies are looking to use office spaces differently. We could expect the workplace to evolve into a place to meet for internal meetings, meaning employees will primarily work from home and travel into the office to collaborate or meet primarily.
Question: Finally, can you share some advice on how to travel safely and not costly, either for business or personal purposes, during the outbreak?
Answer: A significant part of supporting travelers’ welfare is making sure that they have the right information to make informed decisions. Entry restrictions and quarantine regulations for countries are still quite fluid, so it’s important that travelers have a reliable source to understand pandemic-related restrictions and guidelines. It’s also important that travelers have information on health and hygiene practices for any particular airline or hotel. At Egencia, this information is built right into the booking process, makes it easier for business travelers to evaluate their choices and ultimately make decisions they’re comfortable with.
Lauren Crowley is Global Vice President of People at Expedia Group and is responsible for leading the people strategy for the Egencia and Expedia Partner Solutions divisions. Lauren has over 20 years of human resources experience focused on employee engagement and business performance.
Prior to Expedia Group, she spent over six years as a senior human resources leader at Starbucks, where she was responsible for driving the people agenda for multiple corporate functions as well as the U.S. and Latin American retail organizations. Prior to that, she held human resources leadership roles at Dell and Whole Foods Market. Lauren holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Trinity University.
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