Business Travel in Times of Coronavirus

Nearly all industries are adversely impacted by COVID-19 situation. Some industries were among the first ones to be impacted while the ripple effect is yet to fully percolate down to some other industries. Travel industry was also among the ones which were hit the first and the hardest. The full picture is yet to emerge, it is already being estimated by World Travel and Tourism Council that up to 50 million jobs could be at risk. There could be 25% reduction in international travel in 2020. There is an estimated 40% decline in the traffic to travel sites. Despite the various bail out packages being announced by governments world over, many businesses will go under.

Even with all this news of gloom and doom, there would be recovery and rebound on the other side of COVID-19. However, even after recovery, businesses will not be the same again. This unprecedented situation has highlighted many inefficiencies, risk exposures and threats to business continuity which were largely ignored by organizations. The unpreparedness led to slow response to a rapidly evolving situation.

Let’s look at some of the factors which could have better prepared the organizations to manage the crisis and even during these tough times stay ahead of the competition.

Impact Visibility:

Any response to a crisis situation starts with impact analysis. The quicker you are in developing an assessment picture of the situation, the faster you can put a response action in place. For example – during late December, 2019 and early January, 2020 when the COVID-19 spread was gaining momentum in China and more drastic measures were being announced by Chinese government, it would have helped to understand what that situation meant for you. Organizations could have made better plans related to business travel and business continuity if they had the following information readily available:

  1. Number of employees currently in high risk zone
  2. Number of travels planned in near future to such zones
  3. The main purposes of travel to the risk areas
  4. The impact of travel cancellations
  5. Travel history of employees to analyze how many employees have been to high risk zones in the recent past, including lay overs

Advisory & Controls:

In the face of a situation which is changing in a matter of hours, the ability of an organization to activate counter measures is of paramount importance. How quickly you can issue advisories and put required controls in place can mean the difference between your business staying afloat or going belly up. Especially COVID-19 situation required

  1. Immediate stop to travel to risk zones
  2. Advisory to all employees in such zones to return to their home bases and put themselves under home quarantine
  3. Allow only return flights from risk zones and cancel all travels to these zones
  4. Swiftly implement government advisories

Whether you can take these risk mitigating actions in a matter of hours or days depends on whether you have the robust processes and systems already in place. The key learning here is that it is imperative for an organization to have clearly defined crisis management processes which are also backed by robust systems for implementation.

Future:

Though the situation is still uncertain, it is likely that current decisive actions and massive boost packages by governments will start containing the situation in next couple of months. The economic recovery will be long and the best prepared organizations will come out on top. From business travel and expense management perspective, you can already start planning for future.

  1. Create a matrix of travel zones and business purposes 
  2. Define waves in which you would open up business travel again (a sample matrix is shown below)
  3. Define how exception cases would be handled
  4. Set budget controls for business travel reasons, business functions etc.
  5. Create communication plan for the organization to create transparency
  6. Follow risk rating framework for every travel in the company (We would cover this in detail in our next article)
Risk rating framework and Business Travel type

This novel situation has presented the organizations with an opportunity to weed out inefficiencies, become more focused on their core business and better manage cash through frugal spending and automation.

On a concluding note – we need to understand that COVID-19 situation, even after it gets contained, will not entirely go away in foreseeable future and organizations will have to be creative to come up with ways of resuming and conducting business operations while acknowledging the Coronavirus threat.

Sources:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/world-travel-coronavirus-covid19-jobs-pandemic-tourism-aviation/

Coronavirus and the Travel Industry

Written by-

Manish Kataria

About the author-

I am founder of Traveo Soft Pvt Ltd which is an Artificial Intelligence based corporate Travel & Expense Management Software.

Traveo is automating Business Travel & Expense management for enterprises and helping them in optimizing spends on business travel. Traveo optimizes the entire travel while ensuring that the chosen options are cost effective, compliant with company policy and convenient for the employees and also offers incentive based programs to make employees , Travel Managers, HR, Admin & Finance folks happy.

If you want to know more about the interesting things that Traveo can do to make business travel hassle free for you and your employees, feel free to contact hello@traveosoft.com