While COVID-19 has severely affected business travel, a majority of corporate travel teams felt adequately prepared to deal with the pandemic, according to a recent survey of 125 travel managers responsible for travel programs around the globe. Leading travel management company BCD Travel conducted the survey from April 2020.

Mike Janssen - BCD Travel - 2019
Mike Janssen (foto: bcd travel)

Of the survey respondents, two-thirds said that their travel program was ready for the disruption caused by COVID-19, while only 13% said they were not prepared.

41% report all business travel being suspended, while for the rest only essential travel is taking place. In March, only 6% of the business trips planned took place, more than half got cancelled, and a quarter shifted to virtual meetings.

6 in 10 expect the frequency of business travel to go down. On the other hand, the frequency of virtual meetings is expected to rise:

  • 78% expect an increase in virtual internal meetings
  • 57% say the same about virtual external meetings
  • 49% expect the frequency of virtual conferences and events to go up.

When asked for their top travel program priority, 95% of the survey respondents rate duty of care as extremely or very important. This is 8 points higher than in a survey conducted in January 2020.

The survey found that 8 out of 10 respondents expect some degree of travel to resume by Q3 this year. However, the forecast to restore pre-pandemic levels of business travel is more cautious:

  • 62% expect this to happen by the end of the year
  • 25% by the end of 2021
  • 10% think it will take even longer than that.

– When travel bans are lifted and health organizations withdraw their travel warnings, corporations will need to step in and assure travelers of their safety, said Mike Janssen, Global Chief Operating Officer and Chief Commercial Officer for BCD Travel.

– Although companies will take a fresh look at virtual collaboration strategies, travel will continue to be a critical component to achieve company goals. For instance, to inspect production lines and raw materials, to teach and learn, to foster client relationships and make deals.”

Travel managers should start thinking about how to improve their travel program for employees who need to travel:

  • Provide specific travel advice, personal protection equipment and additional services such as lounge access
  • Implement additional pre-trip approvals
  • Track all traveling employees and use in-app messaging to quickly update travelers
  • Adjust credit card limits for travelers who experience travel disruptions