Posted: 30 Jun 2020 How business travellers can maintain control over the COVID chaos
The South African business travel sector is gradually getting back to ‘normal’ as more airports are opening.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula today announced that in addition to the original four airports that are currently operating, the following domestic airports will reopen from 01 July:
• Bram Fischer International Airport
• Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
• Pietermaritzburg Airport
• Port Elizabeth International Airport
• Richards Bay Airport
• Skukuza Airport
• Upington International Airport
Airlines will also once again be allowed to provide meals in-flight. These meals must be pre-packed and placed in front of the seat for each passenger before the passenger boards the aircraft to minimise movement during flight.
Bonnie Smith, FCM General Manager for South Africa, has welcomed the development, saying it is a positive development towards the ‘new normal’ in business travel. Despite these signs of positivity, Smith says business travellers and companies alike still feel overwhelmed by a sense of ‘chaos’ in the travel landscape.
COVID-19 has created chaos and uncertainty on a global level, affecting health, economics and even politics.
As Stephen Kissler, an infectious disease researcher, recently put it, “Little shifts can have really disproportionately sized impacts in a pandemic.” And scientists have a name for systems that operate like this: chaos.
However, even though it’s difficult to see through the clouds of chaos exacerbating our current situation and obscuring the future, we are not completely powerless. Epidemiologists say we can maintain control over the chaos, by applying simple logic such as wearing a mask, washing hands and avoiding large gatherings.
The same is true in business travel. As business travel is gradually opening up in our market, the sense of chaos can be equally overwhelming for business travellers. However, just like epidemiologists can maintain control over the chaos through proactive measures, so too can business travellers.
Real-Time Traveller Information
The best way to maintain control and feel confident in a chaotic situation is by being well-informed.
However, in a COVID-19 world, information overload can have the opposite effect. We are all continuously bombarded by COVID-19 hypotheses, speculation and even conspiracy theories. In a world of self-proclaimed experts, contradicting “news” tends to fill up our mailboxes and social media feeds, leading to confusion and misinformation.
The best way to make sense of the information overload is to rely on reputable experts with a proven track record. For business travel, turn to a Travel Management Company such as FCM Travel Solutions. FCM is a global provider of travel management services with a presence in over 95 countries and a proven track record of travel expertise and local market knowledge.
During this difficult COVID time, FCM has officially pledged to empower customers with the facts, base all decisions and advice on data and evidence, and commit to full transparency. In order to provide its customers with much-needed relevant information, FCM has launched a dedicated traveller resource hub where travellers can find all the information pertaining to their upcoming trips. The information hub will be available online as well as through FCM’s chatbot Sam.
This real-time information is crucial to provide travellers and travel managers with peace of mind for their upcoming travels during a time when global regulations change daily and different countries impose different requirements. While some countries are easing out of lockdown, others are still enforcing travel bans. Some countries require health certificates, while others impose 14-day quarantines. It is imperative that travellers are up-to-date and know what to expect.
Insights Backed by Data
To make informed and effective decisions, companies need access to relevant data. FCM’s powerful analytical technology offers in-depth insights into the performance of companies’ travel programmes, whether for benchmarking, forecasting or scenario-based planning. These analytics systems can connect to external travel, non-travel and expense data to empower companies to make the right choices based on real intelligence. It can easily consolidate multinational data to see what’s happening across all of a company’s markets to better manage the relationships with airlines, hotels and other suppliers.
In a COVID world where the business travel landscape and the needs of travellers have changed beyond all recognition, we can expect business travel conditions to continue to evolve and shift. To better understand the changing landscape and the needs of its customers, FCM Travel Solutions conducted a State of the Market survey in conjunction with Corporate Traveller. The survey allowed the TMCs to better understand how clients in each market, and in the different industry sectors, will start to travel again, as well as gain insight into their clients’ primary concerns and objectives once travel resumes.
This State of the Market study is an ongoing research project including customer polls, which will be followed by further in-depth customer interviews and focus groups over the next two months.
Travel Risk Management
Health and safety have always been critical components of any travel programme. However, in a COVID world, the importance of health and safety has reached entirely new levels. The impact of COVID-19 has even put the most robust travel risk management plans to the test and has increased the need for reliable risk management tools.
Most travel management companies offer customers a range of tools to help them successfully navigate a crisis. However, in times of stability, understanding behind the function and accessibility of these tools is relatively low. At FCM, we saw a sharp spike in requests for access to Secure, our risk management tool, at the start of the pandemic, despite the tool being available for some time.
It is essential that companies put measures in place to effectively automate their crisis response process and get acquainted with the tools at their disposal. Having immediate access to updated crisis information, and the tools to easily assess which travellers are affected, can drastically cut down your response time in getting travellers to safety.
The chaos created by COVID-19 has the potential to increase business travel anxiety. By responding with reliable information, insights backed by data and a robust travel risk management programme, a lot of this anxiety can be mitigated. While companies are navigating these unchartered waters, FCM Travel Solutions has made a solemn pledge to provide the tools needed for companies to maintain control over the chaos.