With travel restrictions varying from country to country and week to week, planners have to consider multiple factors when managing business trips. Are their needs and expectations being met? A GBTA survey tried to find out.
Business travelers today need to be on top of visa, vaccination, and other requirements for business travelers. In pre-Covid times, basic information on hotels, airports, and airlines would have been enough. But that is no longer the case.
Despite being two years into the pandemic, it is clear that the fragmented responses of countries continues to be an issue, particularly for anyone charged with managing business travel arrangements.
A recent survey, conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and made possible by Dinova Inc., attempts to shed light on the type of support business travelers now expect. The survey, titled No Reservations: Travel Program Communications from the U.S. Business Traveler’s Perspective, examines how travel programs communicate versus how U.S. business travellers want them to communicate with them — in the Covid Pandemic era and beyond.
What Business Travellers Want to Know and How They Want to Hear It
If there is one key takeaway from the GBTA survey, it’s that business travelers are cognizant of the added complexity that comes with travel these days.
The overwhelming majority of survey respondents said that it is either “important” or “very important” to learn about the health and safety practices of numerous suppliers involved in the travel process (airlines, airports, hotels, restaurants, car rental companies, etc).
None of this is surprising given that these are the key touch points for any attendee to be mindful of when traveling to an event destination. Business travelers want to know that every step in their journey has been fully considered.
To help ease this new burden and ensure no details are overlooked, travel managers need to be more research-ready than ever before and confident of the information they provide.
Airlines vs Airports?
When it comes to the perceived need for information on Covid-related safety measures, hotels, airlines, and airports all received similar scores. While 94 percent percent of survey respondents said it is important/very important to learn about the safety policies of hotels, 93 and 92 percent said the same of airlines and airports respectively.
While there may be many options for hotels, the choices of flights available are likely to be significantly more limited. There may be situations where travel managers need to re-book flights from different airports. For example, while an airline could be acceptable, the layover airport may be deemed to be too risky. What will the corporate view be on this?
And it’s not just international travelers who need the relevant Covid safety intelligence; domestic travelers do as well.
Who Is Responsible for This Extra Travel Research?
Although some business travelers may be open to doing this research on their own, GBTA’s research suggests that many will be looking to their corporate travel managers to fill in the gaps. Just shy of a majority of survey respondents said that they need their company’s travel manager to provide additional information on a variety of Covid-related matters: These include quarantine regulations at the destination (46 percent), emergency health services (41 percent), and new company-mandated travel policies such as vaccine requirements (31 percent).
Do Dining Preferences Trump Health Concerns?
The survey also found that business travelers value sit-down dining, and when asked which restaurants fit their requirements best, 31 percent chose casual dining as their top choice.
While personal dining preferences are not new, they can add another layer of complexity for travel managers already trying to meet a new set of health and hygiene criteria. Increased diligence is needed but can they really dictate which restaurants have to be used? What if the senior leadership team decides to head to a different one that some other members of staff may not be comfortable visiting?
There is a need for detailed information that someone needs to find, keep current, and communicate to those who might have a number of additional personal preferences or other factors to consider.
Email Still Reigns as the Preferred Mode of Communication
It’s all very well obtaining up-to-date research, but if it is not communicated effectively, it is wasted effort. When it comes to business traveler communication preferences respondents prefer tried and tested sources, despite the plethora of platforms now readily available. This preference for the familiar makes sense in the context of a pandemic that’s raising levels of uncertainty everywhere.
Using email is still the most preferred method of communication. A whopping 81 percent (four in five) of respondents want their company to use email to share information about travel policies and travel-related resources.
The survey also discovered that internal collaboration platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams lag behind the intranet for travel program communication.
Go Further with Mobile
Given that we live in a hybrid world where many people are glued to their mobile phones, one interesting finding from the survey was that travel programs are not making the most of mobile-first communication methods. Just 36 percent of business travelers stated that their company communicates travel-related information by text message.
With 51 percent of respondents citing text messaging as a desired method for communicating, there is a gap between preference and practice that suggests travel managers are falling short of expectations. If this mode of communication is available on request, event and travel managers may not be doing enough to raise awareness around alternative messaging options.
Keeping travelers up to date by using mobile may also have practical benefits beyond accommodating personal preferences. It offers a timely way to communicate with travelers about last-minute changes when they are on the go. With travel restrictions imposed at short notice and events or meetings canceled only moments before they are due to start, it’s important to keep lines of communication as open as possible.
There are two indisputable realities corporate travel managers have to face right now. Covid-influenced safety measures will be around for some time, and up-to-date travel information is always in demand. It is vital that all relevant details are effectively communicated. And GBTA’s survey provides vital lessons on how to achieve this, despite all the challenges.