Are You Preparing for International Business Travel?

Achievements in beating back the COVID-19 virus have led to heightened interest in business travel. Like many aspects of doing business during a pandemic, the prospect of corporate travel raises many questions. The questions themselves are evolving, and their answers vary by industry and company.

One thing is clear: Both companies and employees have a whole new set of considerations when taking a simple business trip.

Company considerations
– Travel is typically driven by business necessity. An employee’s physical presence may be required on location to manage a site or plant, open a branch, sell or service a complex product, or transfer a specialized skill. While virtual communication can meet certain business needs, others will only be fulfilled satisfactorily through an in-person role.

– Border status and immigration rules have been in flux for the past year. How volatile is the situation in the destination location? Is there a reasonable belief that the employee can conclude the trip and return within the allotted time? Is there a quarantine period? Will travelers need proof of vaccination? Travel managers are having to stay on top of a changing landscape across their countries of interest.  

– Deciding who will go has become a bit more complicated. Given the additional safety measures and potential costs, perhaps only a certain designation of employee will be approved for travel. Their personal health issues may come into play, as well as any household members at risk.

– Essential to the travel decision are duty of care and safety protocols. What information sources and travel support does the company have in place to assure the traveler’s safety? Beyond the changing border regulations, companies need reliable virus data, information on business closings or restrictions, and knowledge of potential obstacles to achieving the trip’s purpose. What procedures are in place in the event the employee becomes ill, or if borders close again?

– All of these considerations come with additional cost. What are all the obvious and hidden costs associated with sending someone on a business trip? And what are the costs of not going? ROI has never been more important, leading more companies to explore ways to identify and measure it.

Employee considerations
Assuming that other options like remote and virtual work have been assessed and dismissed, the employee has their own set of travel concerns.

– Safety is top of mind during these times. Again, the level of concern can be amplified by the employee’s or a family member’s general state of health, both of which can raise privacy concerns as well. The potential health risk is a strong factor in willingness to travel, as is the person’s vaccination status.

– Related to safety is the employee’s general comfort level with travel. In addition to the above reasons, they may be concerned about the length of stay, especially if it includes a quarantine period, modes of transportation in and out of the country, and the likelihood of a smooth scheduled exit. Conditions at the destination are important, such as virus prevalence and safety measures, as well as availability of appropriate lodging and local transport.

– Like company management, employees are concerned with the projected business result. Is a new location or branch to be opened? Are they securing new business or saving client revenue? Will a critical skill be applied or shared? What is the cost of not going –for example, lost business, delays, allowing a competitor opportunity?

Making sure everyone is well-informed
Both the company decision-makers and traveling employees need to stay abreast of:
– Information from immigration authorities to gauge feasibility of travel;
– Company procedures to prepare employees for travel and on-site;
– Fully open communication channels to discuss risk, support, contingency plans, and points of contact.

With businesses planning their return to travel and sharing their experiences, we can all benefit from others’ thought processes and best practices. Starts, stops, reversals, and eventual progress are all to be expected as we move ahead. Planning and flexibility let us put our best foot forward when we’re ready to step out the door for a trip.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

Given today’s business travel climate, you have plenty to manage with added logistics and safety. Let Living Abroad’s Global Business Travel Center  inform and equip your business travelers with the tools they need to navigate the unfamiliar with confidence.