By Jeff Berk, CEO of Tripkicks, a BCD Travel SolutionSource partner
Business travel will increase each month as vaccine distribution becomes more widespread. To say that we’re returning to a travel environment that is different is an understatement. At Tripkicks, we have always believed that the best business travel programs are traveler-centric, meaning the processes and policies – including those with an online booking tool, revolve around traveler needs. To prepare for the future, we recommend starting from the perspective of the traveler and focusing on their key questions:
Should I travel?
Over the next several months, the number of people who are considered essential travelers within their companies will increase. This group will expand from jobs that are inherently onsite (e.g., healthcare practitioners, technicians, transportation professionals), to roles that include executives, sales, and business development. Travel managers need to stay one step ahead with their strategy and plan for returning to travel, and in its communication. Right now, reduced demand allows for time to be spent communicating with each potential traveler, answering questions, supporting research (e.g., what’s COVID-19 like there?), and ultimately helping to directly influence the decisions around travel. However, companies are not resourced to provide these services at scale, and they must resume leveraging technology to empower travelers with the appropriate information. Effectively communicating company policies and expectations is critical, as is providing more information to help travelers make better decisions about their trips.
Can I travel?
While having the “need” to travel is the first step, determining whether you are able to travel is arguably more critical. Even with a U.S. passport, which was once a golden ticket for entry to the world, travelers today face many entry restrictions that prohibit and impede international travel. There are few destinations around the world without new and changing entry restrictions or travel requirements. Even though tickets can be purchased, and reservations made, it is critical that travelers know whether or not they are allowed to enter their intended destination. There are several third-party tools, and loads of information scattered throughout the internet – but with restrictions changing weekly and challenges in validating the accuracy or authority of many of these sources, attention should be given to ensure travelers receive up to date and factual information.
How can I prepare?
Today, even the most experienced road-warrior is a less confident traveler. While the question of “Can I Travel?” is a seemingly simple one, it is rarely a “yes” or “no” answer. With an abundance of COVID-19 related rules and procedures pertaining to quarantines, testing requirements, forms, contract tracing apps – even with a “yes”, there is much to consider. Travelers need to be aware of all of these considerations before they book their trip. Business travel will be subject to a higher degree of scrutiny than ever before. This means that the trips that do happen are important –really important. As professionals in the managed travel industry, it’s our responsibility to make sure travelers have the information required to better prepare for a trip. The right information at the right time means that travelers can set appropriate expectations, and return to the road with increased confidence, with more focus on why they are traveling in the first place.
Despite the increased complexity around returning to the road, companies and their travel programs will be subject to even higher expectations from their travelers. Higher expectations means that programs need to be different, and we cannot simply return to the pre-COVID-19 status-quo. An online booking tool, often the employee gateway to the business travel program, is a key resource for the restart of any program. While most remain heavily restricted today, or even shut, they are critical tools for any company looking to take a travel-centric approach to restarting their program.
About the author
Jeff Berk is the CEO of Tripkicks, a BCD Travel SolutionSource and SAP Concur App Center partner that integrates with online booking tools like SAP Concur to provide actionable travel insights on health and safety, potential travel disruptions, entry and quarantine requirements, COVID-19, and enhanced supplier information like cleanliness and sustainability data. To learn more, visit the SolutionSource Marketplace or contact your BCD Account Manager.