Business travel hit rock bottom during 2020 with travel movements reducing up to 95% in many markets throughout the world. A crippled business travel industry looked to 2021 to restart. However, throughout most of the year, travel has remained in limbo as a resurgent COVID and the Delta variant wreaked havoc.
Vaccinations have given the industry new hope. Borders are starting to open and we have seen an uptick in business travel in key markets, including the UK, Europe and the US.
In the first half of 2021, a COVID free Australia saw a resurgence in travel with activity edging up to 40% of pre-pandemic levels. Then Delta reached our shores locking down Melbourne and Sydney prompting states to shut borders across the country. This resulted in another slump in business travel especially on the east coast of the country.
Lockdowns persist in Victoria and New South Wales as Delta sweeps through the community. Lockdowns hurt, economically and psychologically. The rollout of vaccines has been slow, for a number of reasons. Lockdown fatigue, a good supply of vaccines and an acknowledgement that ‘this thing isn’t going away’ has resulted in a surge of jabs being administered.
It’s been tough, but we appear to be moving in the right direction. As vaccination rates steadily increase, there’s growing optimism that Australian borders will open before the end of the year, nearly two years after a self-imposed hiatus to the rest of the world.
But are we prepared for travel in the shadow of COVID-19?
We need to question whether our current travel programs will meet the needs of organisations and their travellers as travel starts to ramp back up.
Travellers are going to have different expectations, especially with the shadow of COVID lingering over them. As individuals, travellers will be seeking flexibility and freedom to book with travel providers and suppliers that meet their needs. This needs to be balanced with organisations looking to impose greater controls to ensure the health and safety of their people.
So how can we transform age-old travel programs to please both the traveller and the organisation at large?
Over the next few weeks, I will speak to organisations both here and abroad and report on how they are adapting their processes to manage travel into the future. We will explore changes to travel policies and procedures, issues around vaccinations, managing quarantine, risk management, traveller health, stakeholder reporting and more.
There’s plenty to discuss.