June 23, 2021

Don’t forget the Human touch

Mental health expert Matthew Holman believes understanding individuals is key to travel wellbeing

As I write this I am in a reflective mood. I am sat here like many in my home office, the space I have been for the past seven months, thinking about travel, and what I can say? The travel landscape has changed, our world of travelling both for business and leisure has been restricted. When will we be back travelling again?

Over the past two years we have seen a considerable increase in travel wellbeing as an important and standalone topic within business travel. But despite this, wellbeing is something that many people in the industry still find challenging to grasp as a concept. We are still some way away from having a clear definition or understanding of it.

A year ago I was one of the founding members of the Business Travel Wellbeing Community. This year we have worked hard to bring together a whole multitude of experts across all elements of travel wellbeing.

Travel wellbeing is not just about a single solution. It is not just about using hotel gyms and having a healthy breakfast, or getting a good night’s sleep on a long-haul flight. These are, of course, elements of wellbeing but they are not the whole solution.

What is important in the future direction of the travel industry is to recognise that we are all individuals when it comes to what our expectations are of travel. When the world is a complex place, we can be simplistic in our needs and wants. But does anyone really know me as a traveller? Does anyone capture who I am, what I need, and what my priorities are?

We are now seeing the increase in the priority for travel wellbeing, but we do not want this to just become an extension of travel security. Travel security is a critical element of a travel programme and requires its own focus. Let’s work on giving the ‘we care where you are’ (travel security), and ‘we care how you feel’ (travel wellbeing)the recognition they both rightly deserve.

Over the coming months we are undertaking a survey to help build a clearer definition of travel wellbeing, one that all travel managers and owners can embrace. Maybe this will also provide the right tools for companies to engage in cross-functional conversations, travel speaking with human resources, and management understanding the impact of their actions on travellers.

My reflection on my travel past is that I wish I’d had people around me to support me as a human when I was struggling. I don’t miss travelling for business now, but I do miss exploring and experiencing new cultures and meeting amazing humans from all over the world.

I believe 2021 is going to be a new year of opportunities, with a clearer focus, and hopefully a simplification of travel, but most importantly we need to improve our understanding of the humans who are travelling. We are all impacted by the pandemic, but sometimes we just need to ask and understand how.

Matthew Holman is Co-founder of the Business Travel Wellbeing Community and owns Simpila Healthy Solutions. After years of frequent travel working for global TMCs, he had a mental health crisis which fuelled his passion to help others.