While it was tempting to pop the champagne, pack our bags and prepare for lift-off after the news that international travel was back on, it might not be quite so simple.
Oz Desai, General Manager Flight Centre Business Travel, believes that while travellers are keen to get back on the road, it is not without some trepidation.
“Research tells us that business travellers are keen to travel once more, not only because of zoom-fatigue and the importance of face-to-face meetings, but because they’re craving an escape – and business travel offers new experiences, bleisure opportunities and personal enjoyment. But travellers are still weighing the pros and cons, especially when it comes to COVID rules and regulations.”
If your company is keen for you to travel again here are 10 tips for business travellers:
1. Study up on your destination
Keep tabs on government notifications for your destination and stay on top of developments for your own region as well as any places you intend travelling.
Will you need to produce a negative COVID test on arrival? Will you be required to self-quarantine? And if so, for how long? Does your intended destination have a curfew in place? How will their lockdown regulations impact your travel plans?
“Make sure you get your information from a trusted source – and arm yourself with detail. Travel Managers are well placed to answer all your questions and address any concerns,” says Desai.
2. Travel direct – if you can
Perhaps the most daunting part of business travel at the moment is navigating air access and available air routes, including transit destinations (with their own requirements).
If possible, fly direct. Not only will it simplify matters in terms of COVID red tape, but you’ll avoid spending more time in other airports – reducing COVID touchpoints.
Your travel manager should be able to help you plot your most direct and hassle-free route.
3. Source flexible booking options
Checking the small print has never been more important. Your travel manager should make sure you have flexibility in terms of postponements, cancellations, refunds or vouchers. This is critical should your trip be postponed due to circumstances (for example, border closures) out of your control.
4. Check that your accommodation has the ‘stamp of approval’
In South Africa, the Tourism Business Council of South has developed comprehensive health and safety protocols for all tourism-related facilities, establishments and accommodation. Importantly, the TBCSA protocols have received the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) stamp of approval.
Your travel manager will make sure to check the establishment’s TBSCA accreditation within South Africa – and will ensure accommodation establishments have the WTTC ‘Safe Travels’ stamp when you are travelling abroad.
5. Pack well
It’s never a bad idea to have a few extra cloth masks tucked away, just in case. Don’t forget to pop a travel-sized (max 100ml) bottle of hand sanitiser into your carry-on bag – and a pack of sanitising wipes always comes in handy.
Other ideas? A few buffs if you’re going to be exercising while away, your own snack packs for the flight, a good quality travel pillow – and tons of patience and a sense of humour!
6. Get insured
Chat to your Travel Manager about the best insurance cover for your trip – now is not the time to wing it.
7. Check in online
If you can, check in online wherever possible. This includes flights, shuttles and hotel accommodation. It is just another way of reducing COVID touch points.
8. Manage your stress and look after yourself
Business travel has always come with a particular set of stressors. Long flights, jet lag and lack of sleep to name a few.
You can guard your immune system by getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet – build this into your trip by considering an extra night at your destination to relax, prioritising exercise while away, eating well, keeping hydrated and practising standard health and safety measures like wearing your mask, washing your hands etc.
9. Consider bleisure
Bleisure travel, essentially tacking leisure opportunities onto the end (or beginning) of a business trip, is on the rise. Micrometrics reports that 75% of business travellers would like to go on a bleisure trip; 60% of all business trips are now lengthened with ‘bleisure days’; and 87% of bleisure travellers are satisfied with their work-life balance.
Desai believes that bleisure is going to become increasingly important. Not only because travellers are keen to get out and explore again, but because a leisure experience will make travelling under current conditions worth the effort.
10. Use an app
President Cyril Ramaphosa has asked all South Africans to use the Covid-19 tracing app – COVID Alert SA – a nifty app available on Apple and Android.
Put simply, it uses Bluetooth technology to identify other phones with the app installed and alerts you (anonymously) if you’ve been in close contact with any other user who has tested positive for coronavirus in the past 14 days.
A long list of countries around the world are using similar apps, shining a spotlight on using apps to navigate life during COVID-19. And there are many.
In terms of business travel now is not the time to go at it alone, a travel manager, like Flight Centre Business Travel, will help by handling everything from booking your flights, hotels or ground transport to updating you on the weather at your destination so you know what to pack.