Andrew Wimpenny, Principal Global Business Consulting for American Express Global Business Travel, speaks to The Business Travel Magazine about why communication is key to getting business travel restarted, from dispelling myths to advising travellers on what to pack.
Gaining traveller confidence and trust is essential to getting the world moving again. And when it comes to instilling confidence, the burden of proof is higher for business travel – both organisations and their travellers need to be assured that biosafety standards and protocols are consistent, auditable and medically approved. This requires industry partners collaborating to establish enhanced standards and protocols.
It’s why key providers in the travel value chain need to work together with global organisations such as the WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) and IATA (International Air Transport Association) to drive adoption of consistent globally recognised procedures.
But safety standards and protocols are only effective in building trust if travellers are aware of them.
Good communications are essential to generating confidence and fulfilling duty of care obligations, with timely, relevant and regular updates delivered via all effective channels.
To feel well-prepared and confident, it is important that travellers have vital ‘know before you go’ information at their fingertips, to feel prepared and comfortable with the upcoming trip. Technology plays a key role in enabling this at scale.
For those organisations needing to get their employees on the road again, the reverse of traditional business travel demand management could be needed – stimulating demand rather than curtailing it. Now could be a good time to work with preferred suppliers, to help create things that resonate that with the travellers, such as loyalty point incentives, or new tailored perks.
What does travel today look like? Travel managers should prepare travellers for life on the road in the ‘new normal’. People had to get familiar with new security procedures after the 9/11, and today’s situation is a similar learning curve. Preparations can include infographic guides to sanitation procedures and social distancing protocols at airports, hotel check-ins, collecting hire cars.
Travel management has become more granular, right down to things like packing. Today’s business traveller checklist could include:
• Can sanitizer liquids be carried in air hand luggage on the trip? Check national regulations.
• Do you have sufficient clean facemasks? When and where on the trip will you be required to provide and wear masks? Think about all steps of the journey – airport, aircraft, ground transport, public areas of the hotel.
• Do you need to bring food? Minimal service is available on some flights, while airport concessions may be closed.
• Have you packed your digital wallet? Make sure all relevant apps are updated and ready for contactless check-ins, boarding gates, car hire, ride hailing and payments.
• Do you have the right duty-of-care contacts at your fingertips? For example, do you know who to call or what to do if you fall ill during the trip?
‘Myth-busters’ can also help alleviate fears. For example, there are perceptions around breathing in germs on aircraft. Share the facts about air circulation with travellers: generally, all modern aircraft are fitted with hospital-grade HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters that capture 99.9% of airborne particles. Key to onboard safety is observing protocols such as wearing facemasks and avoiding contact with other people.
As well as the HEPA filters, this infographic shows how aircraft airflow is engineered for cleanliness heated to double the virus-killing temperature before being cooled into the cabin, with clean air flowing from above to below with minimal flow through the cabin. Filtered clean air is refreshed every three minutes.
Beyond onboard air circulation, another misperception is general cleanliness of aircraft. The three major global airline alliances – Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam – have worked together to reassure passengers about thorough deep-clean and disinfection procedures on their aircraft.
Together the alliances have produced this ‘Dear Travellers’ video, which is also endorsed by the likes of IATA, Airbus and Boeing, and can be shared with your travellers ahead of their trips. The video also addresses the situation at airports, which is another area of concern for travellers. As well as sanitation protocols, it’s worth pointing out that many airports are currently not busy, with effective social distancing measures in place and mask requirements.
Travel is the engine of the global economy, so it is vital that travel professionals work together across the value chain to instil the confidence needed to get the global workforce back on the road.
* GBT recently launched a dynamic briefing platform called Travel Vitals, with up-to-date information and data aggregated from hundreds of sources.