A Few Questions for Travel Managers as We Look to 2021.

It can’t be as bad as last year, can it?

No one knows what’s next, but we do (and that includes you) have a few good ideas. We’d like to use this forum to exchange those ideas – to support and inspire each other going forward, just as we did to survive the changes and challenges of 2020.

For the first time in many, many months, it seems as though there’s hope on the horizon. Great hope, actually, for a way through and beyond the pandemic, plus a way to maintain the momentum of the economic resurgence we’re already starting to see.

We likely won’t, however, be going back to what was once business as usual. We’re not all going to hop on a plane tomorrow or pack into a crowded train to make a meeting. Travel has fundamentally changed, and this is our opportunity to rethink about what we want the new travel landscape to be.

So let’s ask the questions that need to be asked.

What do you need your online booking tool to do in the new year?

Travelers aren’t sure what travel is going to look like either, so they’re going to want more guidance as they plan and book their trips. Your online booking tool is a place for you to connect with and engage them – it’s a resource where they can find out when it’s safe to travel, where it’s safe to go, and what the new (and changing) rules will be.

Think of your booking tool as a communications platform, and remember that communications on this level of importance aren’t “one and done.” Use short, frequent messages written for a broad range of travelers, then prepare to repeat yourself.

Remember, too, that your audience is always changing. Travel is going to happen in waves, and different teams and types of travelers will take off at different times. The information you offer on your booking tool needs to reflect their differing needs.

What policy changes are you considering?

Perhaps a better question is “what policy changes should I be considering?” Right now, we’re hearing a lot of talk about adjusting the lowest logical fare window. Why? Well, if you’ve always mandated the lowest fares, it might be time to loosen the restrictions a little, as the lowest fare might not be the safest option.

Your travelers are going to want reassurances that planes they’re boarding and rooms they’re sleeping in are clean and COVID-free. They’re going to base their travel decisions on their health and that of their families – not merely on the cost to the company.

You should also consider adding or adjusting pre-trip approval requirements. Because when you know where and when an employee is planning to go, you can ensure a higher level of safety for the trip. Try thinking of approvals in these terms:

  • Company confidence: Is the trip critical? Is the need clearly defined, or could it be addressed by other, non-travel means? Does your insurance cover employee healthcare in a foreign country?
  • Employee confidence: Does the employee feel comfortable traveling? What can you do to support and educate travelers pre-, during-, and post-trip?
  • Accessibility: What are the requirements for entry into a particular country or state? Are there quarantines or other restrictions in place? How is their healthcare system holding up?

While compliance will be ever more important in 2021, so too will flexibility as the travel landscape will be very fluid as it reopens. Giving employees the flexibility to book directly with suppliers maybe a very viable choice be it for air, lodging, or car rentals. As transparency for all bookings effectively equals compliance, transparency will be critical to your program and Concur offers Triplink as your connection to all travel bookings irrespective of the booking source and access to your negotiated rates when booking direct with our TripLink Partners.

How can you get the most out of unused credits?

One day, the business world was traveling. The next day, we were grounded, and all those trips we had planned went out the window. So what are you doing to turn those credits into travel? And will you be ready if a similar pause happens again?

Start by talking to your travel management company (TMC); you’ll want to develop a plan for finding and documenting unused tickets. You’ll also want to take advantage of the airlines’ current flexibility regarding refunds and fees. And check to see if your booking tool will log unused air travel in your traveler’s profiles. If so, you can easily keep a running tally to help reclaim any funds you have coming.

What do you have to say all this?

Travel in 2021 will be new territory for all of us. So we’d love to hear your thoughts on the questions above – or any input and insights you have as your business looks to the skies again. After all, we’re in this together, and together is going to be good again.

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