By Tristan Smith
The COVID-19 virus is spreading fast across the globe – in different forms that go far beyond the virus itself. In a bid to slow down the spread, governments worldwide have put in place unprecedented regulations and restrictive travel mandates.
At the moment, business travel has broadly been stopped, but for some, it is an essential way that their business operates. Many hit hardest by this are SMEs who may not necessarily have a travel management company onboard to help support their organization’s travel needs. After all, smaller budgets, footprints, and headcounts mean these companies might be booking travel through online travel agents which works to get to and from a destination, but this only provides minimal duty of care to support the business traveler before, during, and after a trip. This is particularly important when it comes to worldwide travel disruptions and knowing where everyone in your workforce is at any time, especially in pandemic situations like we’re in right now.
SMEs wanting to ensure their travelers are looked after and feel safe on the road when restrictions begin to ease off should prepare now and consider what they can do to strengthen their duty of care offering.
Any organization needs to make sure it is completely up to speed on the various regions it operates in. Not just for the logistics of its local offices there, but to actually understand the local situation, as well as what local governments are advising. Different countries are responding and easing restrictions related to COVID-19 in different ways, especially in far-east Asia, so as restrictions to lift, your travel program needs to be in line with government recommendations.
With access to the latest travel information regarding COVID-19 worldwide, SMEs can be that bit more agile in responding. Being able to update your travel policy quickly and efficiently across all locations and geographies as soon as travel is restricted or lifted to certain area means a company can better look after their employees.
You can’t underestimate the importance of communication with staff post COVID-19s. It must be two-way, regular and relevant. Employers need to know where staff are at all times and employees need the latest advice on where it is safe to travel and where there is a high risk. Making sure this happens in real-time, with messages going out as soon as the situation changes is critical to the safety of staff and the overall health of the business.
As well as ensuring staff are safe and confident on the road after COVID-19, businesses will need to make sure their travel budgets stretch as far as possible. While this will be the focus for all businesses, SMEs in particular can look to maximize their return for their travel program by partnering with a travel management company (TMC) who can provide access to exclusive rates, offers and perks.
Ultimately, SMEs are experiencing the same effects of COVID-19 on their business as all businesses are – perhaps more so. But there are ways to prepare now that will help companies get back to the normal rhythm of their business quicker and smoothly, if a solution can be found for getting staff safely back on the road. A strong managed travel program can not only help a business to better manage the disruption to business travel today – but it can help get the business moving again as soon as any travel ban begins to ease. SMEs booking with online travel agents or directly with suppliers will find their hands full trying to individually get staff up and running again for their much-needed trips. Equally, a well-managed travel program will also deliver savings to help get the most value out of each and every journey.
The world post COVID-19 will be different. SMEs, as part of a business travel community, can lean on each other to continue offering peer-to-peer support and navigate, together, the return to ‘normal’. If organizations implement solutions now, then they can get back to business as usual quickly and efficiently when the time comes.
Tristan Smith is Vice President of Customer Success at Egencia.