You stand at the helm your travel program – your newly modified, completely adaptable travel program that you rebuilt during the last 16 months of “downtime” – but even though the C-suite now looks at you to singlehandedly restart corporate travel and get business moving again, there’s someone else they need to consider.
Before we get to the answer, let’s take a deeper look at that C-suite idea, because it’s critical to what your travel-management team does next.
Your corporate higher-ups really are looking to you to get travel going again; corporate travel drives business momentum, and while virtual meetings have kept the engine running, it can’t propel companies quite as effectively as sitting across the table and shaking hands over a deal. Because of these simple facts, you – as a travel leader – have a critical seat at the strategic table, and everyone from the CFO to the CEO is seeking your input. They need to hear big, bold ideas about getting your travel program ready to go, ready to adapt to the changes that are sure to come, and ready to carry the business forward.
But again, the C-suite isn’t steering the ship here, either.
In our new, more cautious, more unpredictable world, it is the individual traveler who holds the keys. It’s up to her to decide when she’s ready to board the plane or train again. It’s up to him to say “it’s too soon” to tour your APAC facilities. It’s up to them, collectively, to demand new policies and procedures dealing with when, where, and how they travel – and how you’ll keep them safe on the road.
Travelers’ comfort level is key to the return to travel. They need to know you can provide the PPE they need; they need to know you can reach them and retrieve them if they get caught in an emergency situation; they need to know you know what to do. And until they’re confident you have them covered, they’re not going anywhere, and the CEO is going to wonder why business isn’t rebounding.
The crux of the issue is confidence – business leaders and travelers alike need confidence in your travel program. They want to know they don’t need to worry about getting ill or getting into some other sort of trouble as travel resumes. They also want to be confident that, in addition to new safety protocols, you’ve factored in sustainability as a tenet of your new travel program. Travel isn’t just about increasing sales anymore, it’s about reducing your corporate carbon footprint.
If it all seems overwhelming (and there’s reason for that), there’s a travel checklist circulating among your peers that’s worth far more than the five minutes it takes to read. Most notably, it offers four travel manager tips designed to help you rebuild confidence into your ever-evolving program – from embracing a traveler-management mindset, which is what we’ve been talking about above, to shifting from duty of care to “duty of caring.”
In a recent global business traveler survey, 90% of travelers said expect their company to provide benefits that ensure health and safety while traveling. They expect policies and practices, not promises. And while travelers will have their say before they hit the road, rails, or skies again, initiating those new protocols is up to you. Continually reshaping your travel program will take big thinking and brave actions, but with the right tools in hand, you’ll have more authority over where travel is headed than ever before.
And you’ll have the confidence of corporate travelers and business leaders alike.