While it’s difficult to predict when restrictions will be relaxed and business travel will resume, companies should already be preparing for the post COVID world, says travel risk expert Lloyd Figgins.
He answers some of the key questions in this Q&A with Bev Fearis
What will travel look like once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased?
Very different is the short answer and it will take a while for the industry to recover from what has been a catastrophic sequence of events. However, the silver lining is that I believe the business travel sector will bounce back quickly once restrictions are eased due to the fact that many companies have already put measures in place to mitigate risks and protect their travellers.
What will be the key changes in the travel experience?
I think we can expect to see longer check-in times, health checks at airports, as well as the compulsory wearing of PPE. Airport authorities will have greater powers and these will include denying boarding if they suspect illness. On arrival at the destination airport, travellers should expect delays as further checks are carried out. Of course, many countries will remain off limits, as their infection rates and ability to manage COVID-19 may not be as advanced as ours. It’s also worth bearing in mind that borders could close at short notice and lockdowns imposed with little warning should there be a future spike in cases.
What should UK companies be doing in preparation?
Primarily, if they haven’t already done so, they should be taking a good look at their travel risk assessment process. This needs to include considerations like the FCO advice, COVID infection rates and the state of the healthcare system in the countries they are planning on visiting, their insurance cover, as well as any reputational and commercial risks that might exist. They also need to be training their employees on how to travel safely and what is required of them.
What measures should they be putting in place to protect their employees once travel resumes?
Employers have always had a duty of care to protect their travellers. The fact that there is a higher level of risk due to the challenges posed by COVID-19 means that employers must be able to demonstrate they are addressing these risks. Key to this is ensuring that travellers are informed of the risks, there are mitigation measures in place and importantly, employees consent to travel.
Will there be an unwillingness to travel and how should companies deal with resistance from employees about getting back on the road?
Invariably there will be some people who are reluctant to travel and this is because everyone has a different risk appetite. Employers will need to be sympathetic to this, particularly in the early days of a return to travel.
What advice would you give to companies to make sure they are providing duty of care?
Get professional advice on your legal requirements. Duty of care is often a misused term, so it’s vital to really understand what it means to your company and how to apply it. Make sure your travel risk management processes are robust, appropriate and up to date. These will all help provide a blueprint for how you will be able to travel safely. Remember that risk assessment is an ongoing process, so keep abreast of current events.
* Lloyd Figgins is Chairman of the Travel Risk & Incident Prevention (TRIP) Group thetripgroup.com and a travel risk expert. He’s worked in over 80 countries and provided safety and security advice for a wide range of industry sectors, as well as a number of governments. He’s the author of The Travel Survival Guide.