With the UK vaccine rollout well underway, the time has come for businesses to resume travel and meetings in a safe and responsible way. Inntel has seen a sustained and significant increase in booking levels over the last few weeks, but will this be a short burst of activity followed by a lull or will people travel again at the same frequency as before?
The short answer to the above is that we simply do not know and resuming business travel will depend on many factors. However, we can start to analyse the recent booking activity to get an idea of what travel and meetings might look like as we move forward. UK domestic travel is already starting to return and those travelling report that they feel confident in their personal safety and security. International travel will be very different with many additional factors such as entry requirements, vaccination requirements, COVID testing and quarantine.
Here are a few key factors which travellers may consider when thinking about the risk and frequency of travel.
It will not be like it used to be
International travel will be more challenging and possibly more stressful. Firstly, there will be more time spent at the airport with queues likely due to social distancing measures and increased checks. Secondly, things may be very different at your destination with many services closed or adjusted and other restrictions being in place.
Most countries have stringent entry requirements which may include proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result within prescribed timescales ahead of arrival. International travel will require a lot more planning in the post-pandemic world and as a result people may plan fewer but longer trips. By combining several shorter trips into one longer trip, you can efficiently achieve all your objectives without the additional challenges of arranging multiple trips.
Travel risk managers will need to monitor your every step
Even with the most careful planning, it is possible that the local regulations or entry requirements for returning to the UK change during your trip. It is essential that your employer knows where you are and can put special measures in place to safeguard your trip. Many of our clients are enhancing their risk management practices and every trip will be carefully monitored. By combining your trips, you can help your business to keep you safe and minimise the risk of the unknown.
Impact of rising infection rates on travel
If the infection rates rise to a level that puts pressure on the National Health Service, the UK Government are likely to shut certain travel corridors. Just recently, Portugal changed from being a country on the green list, which people can visit freely, to an amber list country which requires quarantine on arrival back to UK. This change gave travellers a matter of days to change their plans to return to UK and avoid mandatory quarantine. Changes like this will continue to make planning ahead difficult and booking several, shorter trips will make last-minute changes more challenging to manage.
People will take a train before they fly
If you have a business meeting or event you need to attend within UK, you may give your mode of transport more consideration then you might have done in the past. Pre-pandemic, flying to your destination would more than likely have been quicker, allowing you to return on the same day. Inntel have seen a significant increase in rail and ferry travel in the recent months as a result of many people viewing air travel as posing a higher risk of virus transmission. Travelling by train or ferry offers people more control of their personal space with many operators implementing mandatory seat reservations to adhere to social distancing regulations. These alternative modes of transport undeniably take longer however they offer the added benefit of extending your time at your destination and maximising the purpose of your trip.
Countries will recover but not all at once
The UK is leading the charge when it comes to the vaccine rollout and this is likely to result in travel corridors opening and closing depending on infection rates in other countries. International business travel resuming will depend on a combination of infection rates and vaccination success in destination countries. Make the most of a planned trip and maximise your time there as there is no guarantee that you will be able to return for another short trip.
Business travel and meetings will look very different post-pandemic and whilst travel will undoubtedly return, it is important to take the personal and business risk involved into consideration when you start planning. It is essential to travel purposefully and make the most of your time at your destination. Planning fewer but longer trips will not only allow for easier planning but also support your business in looking after you whilst you are away.