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The new business travel zeitgeist

Despite the challenges of 2020, new opportunities lie ahead.

As the travel industry tries to navigate this extraordinary situation, a new beginning lies ahead for those who are ready to dive into the new normal.
As the travel industry tries to navigate this extraordinary situation, a new beginning lies ahead for those who are ready to dive into the new normal. Photo Credit:Getty Images

In the most abrupt zeitgeist change in the history of travel, Covid-19 catapulted the travel industry into a tailspin. What was predicted to be a bumper year of growth in corporate travel spend estimated at $1.51 trillion by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) quickly transformed into a financially challenging and emotionally draining aeon of chaos.

As the travel industry tries to navigate this extraordinary situation and figure where and how to move on from here, new opportunities also lie ahead — a new beginning for those who are ready to dive into the new normal as we figure out what business travel 2.0 will be like.   

When FCM conducted global State of the Market research among MNCs between April to August 2020, a staggering 89 per cent indicated risk management and duty of care as triggers that would prompt resumption of business travel. There is no second-guessing it — safety and hygiene will be top priority for many companies and their travellers from now onwards. Not only in 2021, but for many years to come.

The increased awareness towards duty of care has set the wheels in motion for many companies and governments to rethink their processes and embrace new partnerships.

In a post-Covid world, the hygiene and sanitation playbook will be commonplace in the travel environment. Clever reconfigurations of space on flights and in hotels will be key, along with health and safety controls. TMCs and travel suppliers need to have complete transparency with customers to assure them of well-sourced and planned itineraries to imbue peace of mind.

While navigating companies’ return to travel in Asia, we have seen domestic travel return swiftly to some destinations, most notably China. Interestingly, new patterns are already starting to emerge as an indication of future business travel habits. Day-trips, shortened booking and purchase windows are most prevalent.

Bertrand Saillet - highres
"Clever reconfigurations of space on flights and in hotels will be key," says Bertrand Saillet

The emerging consensus around curated spaces for work within a hotel is starting to come into its own as a result of these day-trips. Though it is not a new concept, popularised previously by niche design hotels, four and five-star chain hotels have started to jump onto the bandwagon.

We are also seeing a shift in focus towards rapid testing (and away from quarantine) as a means to reignite corporate travel and MICE in Asia Pacific. TMCs need to be part of the conversation and integrate this as part of a simplified experience for business travellers when they are ready to restart international travel in 2021.

Amid ongoing corporate restructures and cost-saving measures, many companies have streamlined their business operations. This bodes well for corporate travel and event planners, as such services will likely be outsourced as a way to save valuable costs. A subsidiary of Flight Centre Travel Group, FCM Consulting has seen an increase in companies enquiring about outsourced travel resources, and support in areas such as corporate coordination, financial controls, duty of care, and sustainability.

This year may be one of the travel industry’s darkest moments but it is still a journey. More than ever, we need to forge ahead to recover from the bruising. As the late Martin Luther King Jr said: “You may lose hope. You may lose sight of your dream. You may, for some time, abandon your dream”. But don’t give up. Now more than ever we must keep walking.

Bertrand Saillet is managing director, Asia at FCM Travel Solutions