New research conducted by Collinson – a global company in traveller experiences and medical assistance – from a total of 18,500 travellers in 2019 and 12,607 travellers in 2020, has revealed how significant the lack of cross-border travel has been in the region and globally.
Globally, a third of business travellers stated that the lack of travel has made their company less productive, and 28% say they have felt unable to do their job effectively. Four in five global business travellers (81%), in spite of video conferencing technology, have seen their job affected by a lack of cross-border business travel, and a third of respondents state that not seeing clients face-to-face has negatively affected the way they do business.
Zoning in on Asia Pacific, one in three business travellers in China say not seeing clients and prospects face-to-face has negatively impacted the way they do business. In Hong Kong, over a quarter of business travellers are seeing the adverse effects of not travelling. This is further echoed in Singapore, with 25% saying not seeing clients and prospects face to face has negatively impacted their business, and not travelling has ultimately made them less productive.
The survey results demonstrate that while the majority of business meetings are now conducted via video call, there is a growing need and desire amongst a large number of business travellers to recommence travel. But it’s important to note that they will be looking to their employers for the right provision of support and assistance solutions before taking to the skies again – those that protect not just their physical, but also mental health.
Before the pandemic, one in three (35%) business travellers raised concerns about the impact of business travel on their mental health, while a quarter (23%) said it increased their stress levels. Collinson’s research post-Covid outbreak indicates that these feelings have intensified since the onset of the pandemic, and that these areas will now be more critical for businesses and the travel sector to focus on. In fact, almost three quarters (73%) of travellers worldwide say they’ll be prioritising their mental wellbeing more when they travel in future than they did before the pandemic.
While apprehensions surrounding mental wellbeing and stress are a top priority for global travellers, issues around quarantine rules remain a significant concern for passengers in Asia. The need to quarantine tops Hong Kong travellers’ list of concerns for post-pandemic travel, with 57% primarily hesitant to travel due to the need to quarantine on arrival or return. These concerns are shared with 49% of travellers from China and a further 71% of travellers from Singapore.
As businesses consider restarting cross-border business travel, the challenge remains in making sure employees don’t feel it comes at a cost to their health and wellbeing. Post-pandemic, corporate wellbeing initiatives will be high on the agenda of companies globally. Employees that need to travel for work should be able to do so with confidence, knowing that their company is providing them full support.
More than half (51%) of business travellers interviewed in our pre-COVID survey said their employer expected them to prioritise keeping the cost of travel low over their wellbeing. Add to this that only half of business travellers pre-pandemic knew their employer had invested in some form of travel risk management (TRM) programme to assist them on the road, some 51% of those weren’t sure what it meant or entailed. Of those who knew this was available to them, only a fifth felt confident using the services in the event of something going wrong abroad.
Getting business travel back on the road is going to require a strong focus on ensuring that employees’ wellbeing is prioritised and that there is not just adequate support in place, but that employees clearly understand what is available.
David Evans, joint CEO of Collinson, said: “The research shows a tension between the importance of business travel, which employees say allows them to do their job better and makes businesses more productive, and caring for them while travelling. In order to make business travellers feel comfortable travelling again, it won’t just be a question of Covid-19 measures such as testing and vaccinations.
“Communication is key, and as such, employers and their medical assistance and TRM service partners need to take a holistic approach regarding traveller wellbeing. This can include propositions directly addressing travel stress concerns such as access to lounge or working together with TRM solutions providers to explain exactly what’s on offer through these programmes and how employees can access these services.”