There’s been a shift in our conversations with travel managers and other members of the corporate travel community as we close out the sixth week of daily conversations with our industry colleagues and partners. Those conversations have shifted from knowing where travelers are, to helping them get home safely, to understanding the impacts of trip cancellations to preparing to get back to business and business travel safely.
Through that process, those tasked with overseeing corporate travel have shifted out of the reactive phase and into one centered around preparation. While travel may have temporarily stopped, it will resume and organizations will need a plan in place for when that occurs.
Where the Conversation Started
Our communities started to come together in March and the first topics of conversations centered around how travel managers got their employees home safely, how they navigated the daily changes in airline waivers and travel restrictions, and how they managed and tracked cancellations weeks and months in advance. Each of the travel managers entered the conversation at a different point: Some companies had already restricted travel while others were organizing last-minute bookings to get travelers home safe. Some travel managers had experience from other crises and some were being tested for the first time in real time.
Each of the travel managers, however, spoke about the cooperation across operations, HR, finance, risk and security teams in managing the rapidly changing situation -- and how TripActions Business Travel Continuity™ features were being used by more departments than travel alone.
A major topic of conversation was around approvals and how in the early weeks of the pandemic, before travel restrictions came into play, travel managers were pushing hard approvals up the executive chain. Once travel came to a halt, travel managers started to prepare reports around cancellations and associated refunds to give finance leaders real-time data to support their efforts around cost savings.
Where the Conversation Is Headed
We’re six weeks out from that inflection point, and the world around us has changed. Today, traveling employees are safe at home and travel managers as well as executives across operations, HR, finance, risk and security are starting to craft a plan for when business travel resumes.
Travel managers are actively paving the way forward, determining step-by-step what the new normal will look like within their organization. There are plenty of factors to consider including health, safety, duty of care, approvals, data, communication, and supplier relationships.
Most travel managers are taking a new approach to duty of care to make it even more comprehensive. Some travel managers are creating contingency plans for potential future situations, from natural disasters to political unrest and global health crises like coronavirus.
Travel managers are also taking a new approach to approvals leveraging the ease and flexibility of approvals management in their TripActions Admin Dashboard. In the current environment, most travel managers are mandating that all trips are approved by a senior VP or higher before being booked. Travel managers are also thinking about the definition of “essential travel.” Essential means something different to each organization so it will take a nuanced approach to balance government restrictions, business needs and employee health and safety. Data will, of course, play a major role in determining each of these factors.
Communication will also be more important than ever. Employees who previously traveled for work will have a range of feelings and questions about returning to travel. Providing a forum for asking and answering questions will be an important step to creating a responsible plan for return.
That’s why we are continuing to host our Office Hours video conference calls. You can join our next Office Hours for Travel Managers here or subscribe to Open for Business: A Corporate T&E Podcast Powered by TripActions here. Our next episode, airing Tuesday, April 28, will discuss best practices and insights to help navigate the next phase of your contingency plan for the safe return to business travel.