Safety of business travellers paramount post-pandemic

Corporate travel managers meeting face-to-face for the first time since the pandemic happened

At the inaugural China Corporate Travel Community (CTC) Roundtable Discussion, held offline in Shanghai on June 17, 2020, participating tourism suppliers and corporate travel managers placed emphasis on post-pandemic safety measures for employees on business travel.

Seeking to make the event a turning point for the corporate travel industry, the corporate travel buyers network persisted with holding the event face-to-face, shared Benson Tang, executive director, CTC.

Corporate travel managers meeting face-to-face for the first time since the pandemic happened

Aside from emphasising that the two-way interaction at offline events cannot be replicated with virtual meetings, CTC also wanted to highlight that China – as one of the countries worldwide where physical events have been allowed to resume – is able to successfully ensure a safe environment for meetings amid the pandemic.

Despite the risk of transmission, the need for multiple layers of checks and approval requested for by their companies, as well as other concerns and challenges, delegates were committed to attending the event, shared Tang. This demonstrated the eagerness industry players had for learning and face-to-face interaction.

Corporate travel has reached a defining moment, noted Tang. Companies that survive the pandemic will become leaders in the industry, however, the uncertainty and how long the pandemic will last remains.

However, despite the difficulties industry players were facing, seeing the unity of the corporate travel industry at the roundtable discussion and the eagerness of tourism suppliers and corporate travel managers to work closely with each other was heartening.

Prior to the pandemic, corporate travel had been a seller’s market, noted Tang. With suppliers now relying on each business deal to survive, they were very willing to listen to the requests of and provide assistance to corporate travel managers.

They also sought to comply with health and safety requirements in the new normal. Even at the RFP and bidding stages, they included cleaning and sanitation services.

Hotels, for instance, put forth the cleaning of hotel rooms with photocatalytic sanitising spray.

Meanwhile, corporate travel managers did not make use of the crisis to push prices down. In fact, they saw themselves as being in the same boat with suppliers, shared Tang.

Managers realised that corporate travel coming to a standstill would not only impact upstream and downstream businesses in tourism, from hotels to travel agencies, but also their own livelihoods.

Corporate travel managers are also facing cost pressures from the rise in airfares for the short term, commented Tang.

Nevertheless, the downtime provides managers with the opportunity to reassess their companies’ travel policies while keeping staff safety at the forefront of their minds.

Managers need to, for instance, understand how contactless travel works in practice and equip themselves with an understanding of health and safety measures, including photocatalytic sanitising technology and the equipping of staff with hand sanitisers.

They would also need to draw up a clear list of requirements allowing staff on business travel to minimise contact – such as asking for contactless hotel check-in – and present the list to suppliers.

Taking these steps will help ensure employees can put their minds at ease during corporate travel.

Simultaneously, corporate travel managers need to strengthen their partnership with companies providing pertinent services for the pandemic and post-Covid-19 period, including medical and security risk services company International SOS and risk management solutions company WorldAware.

They would also need to draw up contingency plans, detailing response measures in case employees show symptoms of Covid-19 while on business travel.

By reassessing the corporate travel programme in the downtime and turning attention to areas neglected in the past, companies can demonstrate to employees their commitment to addressing their concerns amid the pandemic. In turn, this can boost employee loyalty and increase their sense of belonging to the company.

One company taking the downtime to reassess the products and services – such as the ROI and KPI of tourism suppliers – is FedEx. According to its assistant to managing director, Ido Gu, to ensure costs are kept at their current levels, the company is assessing whether suppliers’ mobile reservation processes are streamlined.

For Sha Tao, senior procurement manager and personal, business and mobility cluster lead-Greater China, Philips Global Procurement, employees’ health and safety is paramount for a company’s success. Philips is in discussions with tourism suppliers to ensure health and social distancing measures are put in place, shared Sha.

Meanwhile, Nixon Chung, founder and managing director, Camloy International, shared that that SMEs place the same emphasis on employee welfare as international corporations.

As the founder of a regional SME, his concerns include the safety of employees on business trips amid the pandemic, as well as providing employees with training on sustainable tourism, shared Chung.

For tourism suppliers, reworking products to match new market demands is paramount. Besides coming up with comprehensive plans to meet health and social distancing requirements, suppliers need to ensure an open channel of communication with corporate travel managers. – Translated by Angela Teo; this article was first published in TTG China

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