Comment: Business travel quarantine exemption

Marcus Eklund, Global Managing Director for FCM Travel Solutions, tells The Business Travel Magazine why he believes business travellers need to be exempt from quarantine.

Results of our latest State of the Market survey, conducted among FCM’s customers globally, shows that 50% of organisations have resumed business travel or will book trips in the near future. This is welcome news not just for us as a global TMC but the whole business travel sector. Yet this light at the end of the tunnel could swiftly be dimmed if governments keep changing policy on local lockdowns, quarantine regulations, and testing programmes.

The UK Government is considering a two-week nationwide lockdown at the end of October to break the cycle of Covid-19’s second wave. But shouldn’t businesses and other affected organisations be given a say?

Everyone is hoping for a vaccine, but in the meantime we need to learn to live with the virus, whilst rebuilding our economies. In the UK, business travel is critical to the economy, contributing around £220 billion in GDP in 2019. Business travellers get the deals done and build relationships which drive global trade. That’s going to be even more vital not only in rebuilding the British economy post-pandemic, but also post-Brexit. Since March, business travel has fallen by 90%, and, according to the BTA, if this trend continues throughout 2020, business travel’s contribution to GDP will fall by £150 billion.

Urgent action is needed, but this should not be confused with letting the virus run amok. To get business travel, and the economy moving, the government needs to agree consistent standards and transparent guidelines for travellers, instead of the stop-start approach to reopening borders or implementing quarantine periods.

More specifically the UK Government should heed the call from airports and airlines to introduce testing on arrival – a model that is working successfully at many airports around the globe, such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Dubai, and avoids the need for a two-week quarantine period. Heathrow has a Covid-19 testing site ready to use for arriving passengers, but the UK government is still reluctant to give the green light.

Furthermore, the Government should consider exempting business travellers from quarantine completely as their risk of contracting the virus is extremely low. Trips are planned meticulously as employers are responsible for their business travellers’ safety. Travel policies stipulate which airlines and hotels can be booked based on hygiene and cleaning protocols. Business travellers often travel alone and aren’t likely to visit busy bars. Plus, TMCs have been using traveller tracking technology long before this pandemic, due to increased terrorist attacks and natural disasters, meaning we can track and trace our customers’ travellers at any stage of their journey.