Business travel continues but with numerous precautions in place

Japanese businessmen wearing masks

The Covid-19 outbreak has brought about a significant impact to business meetings and events globally, but the impact is most keenly felt in and around Asia.

This is according to the recently-conducted Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) poll, which revealed 95 per cent of the respondents reported that their companies had cancelled or suspended most or all business trips to China, 73 per cent for events in Hong Kong, 54 per cent for Taiwan, and 45 per cent have also cancelled or suspended travel to other Asian-Pacific countries like Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia.

Japanese businessmen wearing masks

Corporate travel managers in Asia report that business travel is still continuing, but with “additional restrictions” and high levels of approval and monitoring.

For one Delhi-based IT company, all travel from to and from Asia and travel within Asia is prohibited. Italy has now been included in the ban, the corporate travel manager said, while travel to other countries was permitted only with management approval.

Florence Robert, regional travel manager, Asia-Pacific, reported that Ericsson was one of the first companies to set larger restrictions, which has been in place for three weeks now.

“All non-business critical travel is banned and any business-critical trip has to be approved by the executive team, i.e. the CEO and his direct reports only. That being said, we still have a substantial part of travel remaining due to business-critical project executions. Trips already planned have to be approved too, or would be automatically cancelled after one notification from the TMC,” Robert elaborated.

All travel, including personal trips, had to be made known to the manager and HR to ensure self-quarantine or work-from-home where required, she added, and both a daily crisis email and instructions were being sent to all employees.

Adriana Nainggolan, travel programme manager, Asia-Pacific, Autodesk, said: “We have restrictions for business travel to Italy, South Korea, all of China and where travel is discouraged for all Asia-Pacific regions. Discouraged means business travel is not recommended to/from/around the region or country, and staff have to use caution when travelling.”

GBTA added that the Covid-19 outbreak could potentially cost the industry US$46.6 billion per month, or 37 per cent of the total 2020 forecasted global spend.

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