Corporates are being more flexible with their policies as business travel comes back, says James Beagrie, Managing Director of Meon Valley Travel Group
There was a slow build-up to the lifting of testing restrictions earlier this month and now there’s a feeling of ‘get, set, go’. During the pandemic, business travel was only about those going to do a physical job, but now – after nearly two years of being confined to home shores – we’re seeing demand from those who need to seal a deal or just have a face-to-face meeting and a catch-up.
First out of the blocks are the senior executives and once they have a positive experience – whether travelling for business or pleasure – staff members at lower levels are being released out on to the road once again.
“We’re noticing that corporate travel policies are becoming more flexible; they’re now two pages of A4 – not 50”
We’re seeing real intent among the corporates that are contacting us. There are very few tyre-kickers, they’re only calling us when they’re ready to go. The slow gearing-up has helped us too, because it’s been easier to offer the handholding and concierge services that they’re asking for due to the pandemic complexities. There’s probably also some thinking at higher levels, however, that staff won’t be made to venture out to meet clients while they’re not even going into their own offices.
Maybe it’s because of the current traveller type and concerns about social distancing that we’re seeing increased spend. Corporates are pricing up and turning left on the aircraft, although it helps that many business class fares are good value at the moment.
We’re also seeing C-Suites venturing overseas for their holidays and building in client visits while they’re there. They might be taking a safari holiday in Cape Town, for example, but will stop for a few days in Johannesburg to meet with business contacts they haven’t seen for some time.
Something else we’re noticing is that corporate travel policies are becoming more flexible; they’re now two pages of A4 – not 50. It appears that corporates are recognising that their employees were hardened travellers before the pandemic and should now be given a degree of slack in planning their trip, particularly in allowing them to book accommodation out of policy.
“Maybe people will only travel half as much but chances are, because of that, they’ll enjoy it a whole lot more”
Pre-pandemic, many clients excluded Airbnb as a matter of policy, for many reasons including security, payment and quality control, but we’re seeing that some are now happy to allow their travelling execs to book Airbnb direct out of policy.
Perhaps corporates are thinking that a sole occupancy Airbnb is safer than a crowded hotel, or maybe it’s just a case of ‘things are tight, and this is cheaper’. After all, having a strict policy is great until it costs you money.
Employers are seemingly happy for the traveller to book out of policy if there is a considerable cost saving and as long as the individual traveller satisfies themselves regarding the suitability of accommodation – thereby assuming duty of care and taking responsibility away from the employer.
We’re also seeing travellers being allowed to add on extra days for leisure to a previous same-day turnaround European trip. We’ve even come up with a phrase for it. We don’t like the term ‘bleisure’ so we’ve called ‘t’working’ (combining travel with working).
I’m convinced the pandemic reset means business travellers themselves will see things in a different light. As we gear up again, fewer trips all round will mean travelling for work is regarded as more of a perk. Maybe people will only travel half as much but chances are, because of that, they’ll enjoy it a whole lot more.