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​Keep The Change: Will business travel evolve for the better?

Blog post   •   Sep 23, 2020 10:31 GMT

Photo: Sofia Sforza

The question facing many global businesses now is how travel will change. 9/11 changed the airline industry, the 2008 recession changed spending mindsets. Change is inevitable, of course.

Pre COVID-19, CWT was looking after enough travelers every day to fill more than 250 Boeing 747s, connecting around 25m people and handling over 100 events. Back then, we were still hugging our colleagues, and wearing a homemade mask to work would have elicited strange looks.

It’s impossible to predict exactly how the economy and behavior will fare once the pandemic subsides. What’s clear is that some of the changes that will stick around will likely be for the better.

We asked Jo Hillman, CWT’s Senior Director Sales, UK & Ireland, how business travel will change, at least in the near future. Here's what she tells us:

1. The human connection has become incredibly important

As reported in the Harvard Business Review and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology – research shows face-to-face engagements are 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than electronic contact. Having been deprived of it for so long, we value face-to-face more than ever.

Even with the availability of self-booking tools, we’re seeing travelers want the added reassurance of speaking with an expert who can answer their questions and provide guidance. As lockdowns around the world forced our offices to close, we had to adapt and enable our employees to work remotely. To help travel counselors use their home phones to take calls, we extended a system built to meet the varying needs of contact center agents. We established gateways that allowed more than 1,600 employees access to their office desktop securely and supported a significant increase in concurrent VPN connectivity.

2. Duty of care is top of the list of priorities

Companies are looking at making changes to travel policies such as pre-trip approvals, so they can have greater visibility and control over employee travel. We’re helping our customers ensure their employees book through the correct channels and secure all the necessary internal approvals before traveling. Using our safety and security tools, clients can easily locate their traveling employees and assist them in making alternative travel arrangements if required. We’re finding that pre-trip approval processes go a long way to boosting confidence among travelers, too.

3. Travelers are seeking a lot more information prior to traveling

We’re looking at new technologies to offer information at the point of sale to help travelers make informed decisions around issues like entry requirements, quarantine restrictions, and even the last time a hotel was cleaned. CWT also partners with organizations like International SOS to send our clients and their employees regular alerts about developments on the ground. There’s a great deal of conjecture out there. Companies should communicate regularly with their traveling workforce and offer simple resources from reputable sources.

The day will come when international travel is a less convoluted process than it is today. When it does, valuing human connection, safety, and reputable information can only be positive lasting legacies. 

Listen to Concur's latest webinar to hear Jo Hillman speak about the future of business travel.

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