On recovery track: Slow but steady rebound of corporate travel

TD Editor

Over 50% of organisations have begun travelling again but with stipulations, according to the third phase of the ‘State of the Market’ survey by FCM Travel Solutions. Conducted by FCM’s consulting arm 4th Dimension (4D), the final phase of this survey consisted of one-to-one interviews in August 2020 with 250 of FCM’s multi-national large-scale clients globally in over 60 countries.

The workshops examined a new path forward for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, as corporate travel resumes amid new safety and hygiene requirements and protocols. It follows on from the results of two State of the Market surveys released in May and June, both conducted among 2,320 business travel managers, bookers and travellers in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, EMEA and the Americas, to gauge their sentiments on business travel during the COVID-19 crisis.

While 50% of respondents said they have employees already travelling or booking reservations to travel in the near future, resuming travel will be different for everyone. The combined results of the State of the Market research (April to August 2020) shows that over 90% of businesses indicated that they planned to travel domestically and short haul international flights, within three months of government re-opening borders and lifting restrictions such as quarantine. Yet the number of trips taken will likely be lower, as only 26% of businesses are planning to return to their pre-COVID-19 levels for domestic travel during 2021.

The remaining 74% of businesses predict reduced domestic travel for the immediate year ahead. The average number of business trips per traveller pre-COVID, was 6-8 per year; this number is likely to fall between 3 and 4 trips per person, per year until 2023.

Clients still have long-haul travel plans on hold indefinitely, as they assess the balance between need and safety. In particular, national businesses in China, Australia, New Zealand and US were less likely to have long-haul international plans for 2021, indicating only domestic and short-haul international travel will be planned for next year.

29% of respondents from China said they won’t be travelling long haul, while 16% of respondents in Australia, 22% in New Zealand and 7% in the USA indicated the same.

“From the difficult first step of deciding when and how to kickstart international travel, to filling in the gaps between travel policies and needs of the travellers, restarting business travel will require a multi-prong approach with buy-in from all stakeholders,” said Bertrand Saillet, managing director for Asia in FCM Travel Solutions.

The top two priorities for many respondents across Asia were budget and risk management also known as duty of care.

“COVID-19 may have exposed vulnerabilities in the corporate travel ecosystem but companies, together with travel suppliers and travel management companies are working hard to recalibrate the travel-risk ratio for business travel resumption. The needs of our customers and their travellers have evolved and it is crucial to address them in order to start building new norms for the industry in the post-COVID travel era. The new standards of business travel need to start taking root now,” he added.

In addition to focusing on budgets, traveller confidence and safety procedures, businesses large and small are re-evaluating their travel policies in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever before, a travel policy ensures businesses have set guidelines around traveller safety, budgets, required documentation and purpose for travel, while empowering employees to use careful judgement when booking and incurring travels expenses.

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