Duty of care a priority once business travel resumes

As the United Kingdom enters the next phase in its plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic, it’s time to consider the necessary preparations for the return of business travel. For travel managers and procurement executives, this includes a tight focus on duty of care.

In a recent survey conducted by travel management company BCD Travel, 95 per cent of the 125 travel managers surveyed cited duty of care as the ‘top priority’ for travel programmes once pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Raised hygiene standards have a significant part to play here; something echoed in recent research by HRS. Of the buyers surveyed, a whopping 86 per cent will now prioritise partners that have instigated COVID-19 specific cleaning protocols.

However, that’s not to say that cost savings are forgotten –especially given the financial burden caused by business disruption and staff furlough. 62 per cent of the travel managers and procurement executives questioned expect to see a reduction in hotel room rates and better scope to negotiate flexible terms post-pandemic. In a bid to secure better rates, 51 per cent of buyers plan to submit RFPs for contracts up to 18 months long.

Changing traveller needs, as well as restrictions to services and facilities, are contributing to the pressure on suppliers to reduce rates as too is competition from online travel agencies. But it is not all bad, Business Travel News Europe (who published the results) state buyers seek to reduce the number of suppliers they work with, so suppliers stand to gain a larger share of each client’s business.

So, as we consider the next steps in preparation for a return to work and business travel, it is clear a balance must be struck between enhanced duty of care and safety protocols, and value for money. Travel programmes need to deliver in both areas if they are to stay relevant.

The RFP process itself also needs consideration. Before coronavirus, it was notoriously difficult to navigate, and new demands and considerations will only increase its complexity in the future.

There is, therefore, a clear need for better technology and a more strategic approach towards managed travel programmes that is capable of simplifying and streamlining the process without compromising traveller wellbeing or financial viability.

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