After months of border closures in response to COVID-19, several countries in the region have begun preparing for the resumption of business travel.
While Singaporean business travellers are welcome in countries such as China, most organisations are still choosing to avoid business travel, and opting for teleconferencing instead.
Nevertheless, the importance of face-to-face meetings in major deals will continue to necessitate business travel around the world.
Here are some key considerations that organisations should look at when deciding whether to resume business travel.
#1: Is a physical meeting needed?
The first consideration that organisations should look at is whether the trip is necessary, and if so, whether the trip could be done at a later date.
“Travel at the moment should be reserved for trips that are absolutely vital for keeping the business going,” says Albert Hong, Vice President of PriceBreaker Corporate.
“Virtual meetings cannot replace in-person handshakes, to close major deals. However, if physical interaction is not essential, Zoom calls remains a good alternative.”
#2 Is travel feasible in the first place?
In many cases, travelling for business might not even be feasible due to border restrictions, or lengthy quarantine restrictions that may set employees back by a significant amount of time.
Prior to resuming travel, organisations should check whether countries are open for business travel, and whether these countries have any quarantine controls in place.
“The lifting of quarantine restrictions together with a rapid diagnostic kit needs to be in place for business travel to rebound progressively – with direct flights being the preferred choice of travellers,” says Albert.
For Singaporean business travellers, China would be the most feasible destination at the moment, as it is the only country that has a fast-lane arrangement with Singapore – exempting travellers from quarantine periods of up to 14 days.
With this arrangement, travellers from Singapore may conduct essential activities in Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Tianjin and Zhejiang. This arrangement will gradually be expanded to other Chinese provinces.
Nevertheless, there is hope that business travellers from Singapore will be able to visit more countries soon. Currently, Singapore is in talks with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and South Korea on similar green lane arrangements.
Others such as Japan and Thailand are also looking to reopen for business travel as well.
At present, Germany, the Maldives and Dubai (UAE) are already welcoming Singaporean travellers without extensive quarantine periods upon arrival.
However, Singaporeans returning from these locations will still have to serve 14-day Stay Home Notices. Hence, these locations may only be feasible for organisations that are prepared to provide flexible work arrangements for travelling employees upon their return.
#3 Are you and your employees prepared to resume business travel?
Most importantly, in order for business travel to resume, organisations should obtain the green light from employees before coming to a final decision.
Organisations should consult employees on whether they are comfortable with resuming business travel and take proactive steps to address any concerns.
“With the ongoing pandemic, organisations will have to cooperate closely with governments, airports, airlines and hotels to re-instil traveller confidence,” says Albert.
“Organisations should look at existing health and safety measures as a key consideration when selecting airlines, hotels and other vendors.”
“If employees are attending a meeting overseas, it would also be helpful to know the number of attendees, and where the other attendees will be travelling from,” says Jolie Yap, Vice President of PriceBreaker Corporate.
“We also advise our MICE clients to check if there are any recent clusters in the vicinity, and to also ensure that the size of the meeting venue allows for adequate ventilation and social distancing. Sending your employees to attend meetings overseas may not be advisable if these criteria are not met.”
Travellers must also be mentally prepared that travel will no longer be the same as before. Stricter safety measures and longer waiting times at every touchpoint, from airports to planes and hotels is to be expected. As the COVID-19 situation remains unpredictable and fluid across countries, travellers must be prepared for sudden changes to travel plans at a short notice.
Ultimately, whether organisations should resume business travel depends on a combination of key considerations. Nevertheless, when the time comes for travellers to hit the road again, traveller safety should continue to remain the top priority for businesses.
With more than 40 years of experience managing integrated travel programmes for public sector organisations, educational institutions, MNCs and SMEs, PriceBreaker Corporate’s team of specialists based in Singapore are ready to help you and your employees travel with a peace of mind.
Our MICE brand, Accolade, has experience serving large delegations over the years – hosting events such as the Singapore Airshow since 2014.
Speak to us today and let us help you navigate the new normal with a travel programme tailored to your business needs.