Gavin Smith, Director of travel technology reseller Element, outlines the biggest challenge facing Travel Management Companies.
Travel management companies (TMCs) need to be more aware than ever before of the ever-changing risk profiles and travel policies of countries across the world and ensure these are communicated to clients and their employees before they travel.
Changing quarantine rules and entry requirements will have to be considered along with previous known hazards such as Ebola and Malaria in certain destinations.
As business travel starts to resume, companies will be asking how they can best fulfil their duty of care obligations to staff who travel for work as employers are responsible for mitigating any risks - and that burden is going to increase enormously as we head into 2021.
It isn't only large firms that are responsible for the health and safety of their travelling staff. Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, every employer is expected to develop and deploy appropriate travel risk management approaches to protect their staff.
The issues TMCs face now
Due to the unique travel restrictions imposed by each country during this global pandemic, TMCs need immediate access to trusted information. They must become experts in health and safety and be able to recognise and reduce risks. They will need to take on more of a consultative role and assist with the development of procedures, programmes and escalation measures.
Currently, the correct information is difficult to access and usually found by searching through lengthy online resources. Fact-checking and dependency on human interpretation increases financial and reputational risks. However, technology companies that specialise in travel are developing modules that offer real-time information on company's destination travel policies, restrictions, and Covid-19 border restrictions, quarantine periods and other protocols. These applications enable TMCs to configure the policy for each client around the allowed countries, cities, airlines and hotels.
The communication process
During a trip, TMCs will need to use an employee tracking system which allows companies to know where their people are at any time. Travel tech company Zenmer does this via their mobile App using location tracking. This is particularly important in high-risk destinations, or if an attack or natural disaster occurs.
Direct communication with staff using chat facilities on Web and mobile will be critical as will real time alerts to travellers and advice on possible alternative arrangements and bookings. With a round-the-clock service, real-time travel and travel policy data plus experts trained in emergency response management, TMCs will be able to offer a level of protection and provide a sense of safety and confidence that business travellers will expect. TMCs that adopt new technology like this will be better positioned to succeed. As well as providing business-critical support they will be offering a more consumer-like experience as business travellers expect the same seamless user experience they find in leisure travel.
Other new services such as AirBnB for Work provide dashboards that enable businesses to view where all of their employees are travelling and where they are staying, while Airhelp tells travellers their rights if flights are cancelled or delayed.
Invest in technology
TMCs should invest in technology that provides actionable information and gives confidence and trust back to travelling for business. A renewed confidence in travel is what this industry is working towards, whether travelling for leisure or business, but this can only be encouraged by rebuilding trust and safety. The travel industry is still working towards the new standards that need to be put in place to create that trust. Industry bodies like the World Travel and Tourism Council are working together with corporate TMCs to find solutions.
We know that duty of care was important to corporate travel, this was well-documented prior to the outbreak of Covid. This has now become crucial. TMCs that introduce these measures and supporting technology now will succeed by restoring the confidence to travel when businesses start travelling again.