The effects of COVID-19 have been felt to varying degrees across industry sectors in all corners of the globe. Business travel, in particular, had an average growth rate of 5.1% annually over a period of 10 consecutive years before the true financial impact of the pandemic could be accounted for in the second quarter of 2020. A sharp decline had been recorded by the end of 2020, according to the Global Business Travel Association – a sobering look into the bleak reality caused by the pandemic.

A year later, in the second quarter of 2021, vaccinations programs are now in full swing worldwide and industry data is pointing to business travel returning in a big way – we are even seeing it in our data. And while virtual meetings have sustained businesses and communications for the better part of 12 months now, they’ll never quite live up to in-person interactions for many reasons. As such, travel managers have begun the process of preparing for the new travel normal in a post COVID-19 world.

With people expected to resume clocking up more travel miles in the name of their respective organizations soon, here are 3 key ways you can prepare for the return of business travel.

Know Your Suppliers. Know Your Data.

Travel managers everywhere are well aware of the challenges that come with managing different suppliers for a multiple events – having so many moving parts complicates coordination. Add in the amalgamation of physical as well as virtual participants through hybrid meetings on top of much stricter regulations and difficulty rises up a level.

This makes it crucial to carefully consider the suppliers you decide to partner with. A good place to start is checking what measures different suppliers have in place to manage risks arising from COVID-19 when it comes to travel. It should include contingency plans for potential disruptions to normal operations. Cancellation policies are another key point to address, just in case there is a last minute setback that requires postponement or revocation of the event altogether.

Flights are known for their arduous nature in terms of reliability, getting the best prices, and compliance with constantly changing regulations. Leveraging powerful tools like FairFly provides access to a wealth of useful data that streamlines the process of making informed decisions when dealing with suppliers.

Implement a Comprehensive Health & Safety Plan

Health & safety has always been a key component on the list of priorities for travel managers and events organizers. The advent of COVID-19 has only served to amplify its level of importance. Prior to re-launching in-person events, you must now: 

  • Understand COVID-related transmission risks for your event, including your capacity to identify and manage that risk and make informed decisions when it comes to managing any risk identified above.
  • Develop a detailed pre-event health & safety checklist that addresses all risk and your measures to counteract it – from flights, to accommodation and beyond.
  • Leverage intel with all relevant stakeholders including staff and attendees, making sure to specify each group’s roles and responsibilities to ensure a safe event.

Leverage the Benefits Of Hybrid Events

Virtual meetings have indeed played a critical role in helping to keep most organizations operational throughout the pandemic. But even with the world slowly going back to normal, there has been a paradigm shift that will see virtual communications continue to maintain a considerable presence post-COVID. For reasons spanning from cost-effectiveness to convenience and sustainability to name a few, the past year has laid bare numerous advantages of hosting some events remotely.

As a result, hybrid meetings, which are by no means a new phenomenon, will become more popular than ever before. There is great potential for MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) events to be ‘bigger and better’ by catering to a wider variety of needs in the process of offering the best of both worlds.

Nonetheless, hybrid meetings also introduce new complexities that are associated with practically coordinating two events at the same time. It is therefore very important to plan accordingly in order to maximize the effectiveness of this joint approach.

By carefully considering your supplier partners, taking advantage of the benefits hybrid events offer and creating a fortified health and safety plan, you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to the resumption of business travel – which according to FairFly data, is already on the increase. There are of course other effective ways to prepare for the return to business travel in a post-COVID world but the three methods outlined above provide a solid foundation on which to build upon.