A year of bounce back?
Lee Whiteing, Commercial Director at Global Secure Accreditation, discusses the hopes and limitations of business travel recovery for the next 12 months
The hangover from Covid-19 variants, combined with an industry that struggled to cope with significant consumer demand for travel, led to major challenges on the road to recovery in 2022. Hotels battled staff shortages – leaving rooms unoccupied – and few can forget the scenes at airports during peak vacation times.
An April 2022 Deloitte report suggested that corporate travel costs were 50 per cent of what they were in 2019. Perhaps there is optimism in this figure, since it comes only weeks after the latest concerns about a Covid re-emergence.
Despite an uncertain economy, the expectation is that business travel will recover significantly in 2023, but it is also reasonable to assume it might never reach previous levels. Corporates are now more discerning when weighing up the value of a business journey. However, events and exhibitions have bounced back strongly, demonstrating a hunger from the business community to meet in person. I expect 2023 will see increased travel, but with an emphasis on delivering real value from budgets.
Duty of care
One certainty is an increased focus on employee wellbeing while travelling for business. The pandemic raised corporate concerns over duty of care issues, with employers sending employees home rather than risking their wellbeing. With the return to a (largely) hybrid way of working, travel managers must consider how to keep employees safe when on the move.
The new ISO 31030 standard for Travel Risk Management provides a company blueprint, ensuring policies and procedures are of the required standard to reflect modern risk.
Expectations for accommodation providers
The safety and security of where business travellers stay is an important consideration for corporates wishing to demonstrate high levels of employee duty of care. To ensure a safe stay for business travellers, hotels and other serviced accommodation providers face increasing challenges from corporations to demonstrate they are delivering high standards of security.
Where it was previously the norm to consider five-star hotels as safe and secure, corporates and travel managers are beginning to realise that the two are not always synonymous. Accommodation providers can expect to see an increase in demand for accreditation credentials, as ISO 31030 gains momentum in the business travel world.
Taking on technology
In business travel, modern technology is helping to keep employees safe – and this trend will continue. From emergency alerts on smartphones to geolocation of employees, it is now easier than ever to locate missing people, quickly notify travellers of nearby risks and report issues to employers from afar. However, employers must carefully consider the implications these kinds of tools have for employee privacy against the safety value.
A sustainable travel industry
One of the biggest challenges is a route to sustainability. Airlines have embraced greener fuels and eco hotels continue to flourish, but the stark reality is that corporate travel needs to do more. As corporates embrace ESG goals, travel managers require a keener focus on carbon impact and how to offset this within businesses looking increasingly to share this data with key stakeholders. Finding an effective way of doing so may well be the biggest challenge in the future, especially where a more sustainable route could pose a higher risk to traveller safety.
Another year of change
The industry has demonstrated incredible resilience and vital signs are strong – with leisure travellers demonstrating pent-up demand for services and business travellers recalling the value held in face-to-face contact. Those on business will be more demanding of corporates in terms of their own personal safety and security, while demands for transparency over sustainability continue to grow. If the travel industry faces these challenges with the ‘can do’ spirit of the past two years, it’s sure to flourish in 2023.