Business travel is too important in driving business growth for it not to return to normal levels once the pandemic is over, says Jennifer Bowe, EMEA finance director at TripActions.
The travel and tourism industry has been decimated by the coronavirus crisis with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) reporting that the pandemic could cost 75 million jobs worldwide and deliver a hit to the global economy of $2.1trn.
Yet while the travel industry has been one of the hardest hit, Bowe is confident it’s a temporary problem because face-to-face interaction is still highly valued.
“We are confident that travel will resume to pre-coronavirus levels in the future,” Bowe says.
“There’s no doubt of the power of in-person connections for building relationships, closing deals and driving growth. According to Oxford Economics, $1 spent on travel returns $12.50 to the business in revenue.
“This was recently reinforced in a post-coronavirus survey of business travellers conducted by Skift and TripActions that revealed that more than 88 percent of business travellers agree or strongly agree that travel is important for driving their company’s growth,” she adds.
However, that is not to say that everything will return to how it was prior to the crisis. Bowe says that traveller safety and cost control will become “mission critical” as companies look to recover.
With economies across the world reporting huge contractions in GDP, the UK contracting by 20.4 percent in the second quarter and the US by 32.9 percent, controlling costs has never been so important for firms trying to navigate a path through these unprecedented times and beyond.
“In most enterprises large and small, travel and expense is the second largest controllable budget line item. As finance leaders look to guide their organisations back to business on the path to economic recovery, having visibility and control over travel and expense is critical to focusing investments that drive top-line growth while minimising cost to deliver bottom-line savings,” Bowe says.
“That starts with having visibility, real-time data and actionable insights about your spend so you can optimise your program and policies, better negotiate with suppliers, and drive savings.”
According to Bowe, finance directors were previously forced to choose between cost control and traveller safety and experience. But she believes with the availability of modern, cloud-based travel and expense solutions like TripActions, that this era is over.
“On average, TripActions has helped organisations save up to 34 percent on lodging alone. And with many companies facing downturns in the economy and their businesses, it’s more critical than ever to ensure every pound is spent wisely.
“Without spend visibility and control, you don’t have the data and insights needed to be able to optimise your travel and expense spend, programmes and policies, negotiate with suppliers or target areas for cost savings. That’s why switching to a modern travel and expense management platform and trusted partner is so critical right now for enterprises large and small,” Bowe adds.
Bowe says that’s exactly what TripActions provides to their clients. Control for finance leaders is the key, she says and TripActions gives “the real-time visibility, data, insights and control” that every finance leader needs, without compromising on the traveller experience or safely.
“TripActions delivers a great experience for travelling employees with a consumer-like booking experience, unrivalled inventory choice for flights, rail, rental cars and lodging, and global 24/7 expert in-house travel agents there to support travellers at every step of the way,” Bowe adds.
As the world awaits a vaccine and for that vaccine to be widely distributed, safety will remain a primary concern for organisations and their travellers. Even when life eventually returns to normal, traveller safety will likely remain a pressing concern, whether due to natural disasters, political unrest or future global health crises.
Bowe says that to ensure traveler health and safety while controlling costs and saving money, firms must use a modern travel and expense management tool.
“Ensuring the safety of traveling employees requires having real-time data and actionable insights to assess the safety of travel, paired with flexible travel management tools that empower travel leaders to adapt their travel programmes and policies to keep employees out of harm’s way.”
And as firms work to re-introduce business travel, Bowe says TripActions have taken steps to ensure that travellers are as safe and prepared as possible.
“Since the onset of coronavirus, TripActions product and engineering teams have been rapidly innovating to give organisations and their travellers what they need to manage through the crisis. As coronavirus began spreading, TripActions enhanced existing product functionality and added new features to help travel leaders protect travelling employees.
“The TripActions coronavirus dashboard gave travel managers real-time information on coronavirus paired with their traveller data to be able to quickly and easily adapt their travel programmes and policies to protect travellers. And the TripActions Live Traveller Map showed where travellers are, have been over the last 14 days and where they are going,” Bowe adds.
“What’s more, we’ve incorporated information on the coronavirus reproduction number, local government regulations and supplier safety and hygiene protocols to give travellers what they need to assess the safety of and have confidence in their future travel plans.”
Bowe is confident that it won’t be long before business travel is up and running once again.