This is how COVID-19 has changed business travel

Business travel is undergoing a revolutionary change in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. There are several factors contributing to these changes including travel and border restrictions in other countries, stricter health and safety protocols, services like Zoom or Slack streamlining global business deals from home, and the staggering recovery of our current U.S. economy.

Are these extreme changes to the way we go about business ultimately good or bad? Let’s take a look at some data and statistics gathered from the BBC and experts interviewed by Condé Nast’s travel team of investigative journalists who’ve been mapping the changes in the way we go about solidifying and building global business relationships throughout 2020.

Stricter health and safety checkups for international travelers on airlines

One aspect of travel that’s changed entirely is the lengths airport security and airlines themselves go to ensure all passengers are healthy enough to travel. Before boarding that international flight all Emirates airlines require passengers to submit to a rapid blood test. Emirates is the hub for many international flights so health and safety are of the utmost importance to them in containing the spread of COVID-19 across international lines.

Emirates airlines have been lauded for their response to keeping travelers extra safe in pandemic times. This brief highlights what they’re doing best.

“All passengers on Emirates are required to wear a mask and the airline is handing out complimentary hygiene kits with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes.”

While first-class amenities used to be the main selling point for flying with an airline, health and safety measures now take precedence for the general public in pandemic times.

They recently reopened the bar with snacks and amenities in pre-packaged bags flyers can bring back to their seats to avoid crowding and spreading contaminants via fomites. Some more useful updated travel information for top C-suite executives are the temporary work visas available in The United Arab Emirates, an area where many international dealings go down. You can find out more about what this airline has to offer in protection and services for its loyal customers in this full briefing here.

“The United Arab Emirates is one of the countries Americans can currently travel to, and Dubai is looking to welcome visitors with a new visa program that would let them stay for a whole year while continuing to work for a company overseas.”

Airports now have a more futuristic feel to them with automatic cleaning robots and contactless check-in and ticketing services. Some other changes to the boarding process are laid out in more detail here next.

“Some airlines have taken to blocking middle seats—something Delta plans to do through October. Most major U.S. airlines are requiring passengers to wear face masks, and now say they may ban fliers who refuse to comply.

United and Alaska Airlines are adding health questionnaires to the check-in process. United is also offering COVID tests for those traveling to Hawaii. The TSA will administer temperature checks as part of their screening process, U.S. airlines say they will refund travelers who are turned away.”

Take a look at what other countries are open to travel in 2020.

Hotel bookings and fees have changed

Since most borders remain closed to United States travelers and stricter quarantine measures are in place for domestic travel in restricted states, making hotel reservations became a bit trickier. If your company requires you to travel for business dealings they are going to have to compensate you for the risks involved and paying more for a hotel stay since crossing state and borderlines usually requires a mandatory 14 day quarantine period. Dale Buckner who is the CEO of Global Guardian outlines the reasoning behind companies offering travel perks for employees in this recent brief.

“Corporations are going to have to factor the costs of new health policies into their travel budgets and planning. Businesses will reevaluate whether travel is fundamentally required. In cases where it is, a firm will have to sponsor an employee or executive to travel knowing the risks, like that they might be burning money having to put them up at a luxury hotel during a 14-day quarantine.”

Many companies will opt for telecommunication services to conduct business meetings over Zoom and Slack. However, there are benefits to conducting these dealings in the old fashion way. This brief published in the BBC goes into the psychology of why live board meetings are necessary for a company’s survival and growth.

“Even a simple handshake helps us to create bonds: a 2008 study from the University of Iowa found that the gesture helped release oxytocin in the brain, in turn, building trust between strangers and helping to sustain cooperation. More than that, it often makes financial sense to invest in sending workers around the world: one study, by forecasting firm Oxford Economics, found that every dollar spent on business travel resulted in $12.50 in incremental revenue.

If hotels maintain safe social distancing guidelines, superb cleanliness efforts with disinfectants strong enough to take on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, proper ventilation and streamlined contactless services with rental cars and room service there is no reason why we can’t safely go about traveling for business. It’s important they don’t cut corners or force consumers to take on these extra costs at least until the economy bounces back. Usually, with a crisis on this scale, economists predict it could take 2-3 years for a full recovery.

Health and safety protocols will be considered one of the most important parts of “loyalty packages” when choosing hotels and airlines. Once Americans know they are safe and protected from this deadly virus they are more likely to invest in the economy by way of travel for both business and pleasure. Charuta Fadnis, Phocuswright firm’s senior Vice President of research of travel analytics adds,

“Domestic business travel is likely to pick up quicker than international travel. But any uptick in business travel will be dictated by prevailing economic conditions. In previous economic crises, the travel industry has recovered in around two to three years”

Check out more information related to factors determining the United States and global economic recovery post COVID-19 in the full brief available here.

Digital methods of teleconferencing are having their moment in the sun.

This year has been great for telecommunication services and companies like Zoom, Slack, and RingCentral. A plus side of this virus are the costs cut by streamlining many business communications to your computer screen at home. Working from home cuts costs on travel, airfare, hotels, rental cars, and per diems set for food and gas needs. This boom in remote work in turn has created jobs for folks specializing in cybersecurity, coding, software engineering, and tech support.

Solidifying business relationships from your couch also mitigates health concerns and costs to ensure you stay safe rather than crossing the border or state lines. Many companies are ecstatic over the money they’ve saved by switching their workforce to entirely remote dealings.

CEO of Deutsche Bank Christian Sewing demonstrates his excitement towards remote work cutting real estate and travel costs in the following interview with BBC.

“There’s a financial upside, too. As a looming global recession threatens to squeeze business travel budgets for some time, the standard for what does and doesn’t warrant a trip is all but certain to change. We will change the way we are working, absolutely. We even have further ammunition actually to reduce our costs.”

The takeaway

The COVID-19 has changed the way we conduct business forever. Most CEO’s seem to agree it’s for the better. The future of business meetings and international travel will be much safer in regards to health concerns, more cost-effective for the consumer, and easier to connect globally with advanced telecommunication software available.