It’s heartening to see the brisk rollout of the COVID vaccination here in the UK, and many of us now see the declining rate of infection and increasing rates of vaccination as the way out of lockdown and a return to social interaction. That said, I have some doubts on the subject of business travel – has it become a thing of the past?
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has revealed that business travel dropped 52% in 2020, and that it expects it will be 2024 before it returns to the 2019 level. They may be over optimistic. COVID isn’t going to magically disappear; rather it’s likely to be a risk factor for business travel.
When Can We Travel?
The Government predicts all UK adults will be offered the vaccine by the autumn, but it’s likely the national lockdown will end before then. Thus employers will have to balance the benefits of face2face business meetings against the risks of employees catching and/or spreading the virus. As there are public stats for infection rates by area in the UK, it might be sensible to start with local travel, and then move to national travel where infection rates are similar. International travel will have to wait until there are no quarantine requirements in the country to be visited and upon return to the UK.
Who Wants To Travel?
After a year of on-off lockdown, who doesn’t want a change of scenery? However, business travel isn’t fun, and the pandemic has added a whole new level of stress when it comes to how clean a hotel is, or how safe it is to travel by rail or air. There will also be concerns about finding safe places to eat, and how COVID secure the business premises to be visited are.
Who Wants To Be Visited?
If those you plan to visit will permit non-employees onto their premises, now imagine the business meeting. The Receptionist will be behind a screen, the visitor, wearing mask, will be escorted to a meeting room adjacent to Reception to limited movement within the building and avoid them getting into lifts. There can be no handshakes or offers of refreshment, and everyone will wear masks while sitting two meters apart. With windows open, there won’t just be a lack of human warmth.
Conferences and Exhibitions:
This valuable aspect of business life is one many of us will have missed during the last year, and there are signs of organisers planning to run events from the autumn of this year. But, and this is a big but, there is no avoiding the fact that such events carry a risk of spreading one or more variants of COVID. Not convinced? Google Legionnaires’ disease and discover why it is so named.
The Future of Business Travel:
While, as social animals, we’d like to resume business travel in order to make those vital personal connections, right now, it’s hard to see that happening this year. Like the GBTA, we can be hopeful that thing will improve, but the casual ease of attending meetings and conferences may be gone for some time.
Each organisation will have to make decisions on both business travel and protocols for safely permitting visitors to their own premises. To help managers make better decisions we offer both off-the-shelf-elearning, and continuous development through our library of business book summaries.
Contact us for more information.