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Health and safety key to kickstarting business travel post-Covid-19, research shows

According to new research commissioned SAP Concur, a company that provides integrated travel, expense, and invoice management solutions, health and safety will be key to returning business travel to pre-pandemic normality.

The research, which surveyed 500 UK business travellers and 100 UK travel managers, found that the most common emotions they feel about their next business trip include anxiety (43%) and worry (37%). Despite this, many business travellers feel positively about their next business trip, with 31% feeling encouraged and 18% feeling relieved.

Travel restrictions around Covid-19 mean companies need to balance traveller safety and well-being with the need to re-start business travel. Of the business travellers surveyed, 91% expect their company to experience negative outcomes due to restricted travel, including a reduced number of deals or contracts signed that require in-person interactions (47%) and declines in new business wins that require in-person sales meetings (39%).

The top concerns travellers have include infecting their families (65%), getting sick themselves (56%), and not knowing if other travellers are infected (45%). As a result of this, 50% of business travellers in the UK want their organisation to invest in health and safety training.

Health and safety is now seen as more than twice as important than their business goals being met on trips (34% versus 16%). The research reflects this, with 50% of travel managers in the UK planning to implement mandatory health screenings for travellers, 44% planning to host mandatory travel safety training sessions, and 44% implementing enhanced duty of care solutions and services.

And if companies fail to adapt, most employees are not afraid to act. In the UK, 75% of business travellers intend to take some degree of action if their employer does not implement new measures as they return to business travel. This includes asking to limit or reduce travel in their current position (50%) or looking for a new role inside or outside the company that does not require travel if measures aren’t implemented (24%).

The survey revealed that technology will play a key role in helping business travellers feel safe as business travel restarts, with those surveyed stating that the following mobile features will be most important: mobile check-in (48%), mobile safety information (46%), and the ability to view and manage a trip itinerary on mobile (34%).

Darryl McGarvey, director of Channel Development at SAP Concur, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on business travel and traveller confidence. This research shows that as business travel recovers, traveller confidence will be more important than ever and duty of care considerations will become a greater focus within travel policies. It is clear that UK business travellers are concerned about their next business trip and this is understandable.

"Emerging expectations around personal and community health and safety will mean a new era of decisions, processes, and innovations across the travel industry. These survey findings underscore that the industry must come together to collectively adapt, stabilise, and re-imagine the world of travel. Businesses need to be proactive about supporting and safeguarding employees as they prepare to travel again for work, whether putting pre-trip approvals and guidance in place or ensuring visibility into itineraries and spend information, wherever employees book travel.”

The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research, an independent provider of market research, among 4,850 business travellers. Business travellers were defined as those who travel for business three or more times annually from the following markets: US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, UK, France, Germany, ANZ region (Australia, New Zealand), SEA region (Singapore, Malaysia), Greater China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, Korea, Italy, Spain, Dubai, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

 Additionally, Wakefield Research surveyed 800 travel managers from the following markets: US, Brazil, Mexico, UK, France, Germany, SEA region (Singapore, Malaysia), and Hong Kong. Both surveys took place May – June 2020.