In today’s day and age, it is often thought that businesses should streamline every element of their service. The travel booking process has wherever possible tried to do this for the sake of efficiency and to offer control for the client to book whatever they need.
COVID-19 has changed the travel booking market. Real innovation, at least at the moment, lies in a crossbreed of technology and people, rather than highly process-driven travel bookings. Currently, all travel is less predictable than it has been historically. Travel bookings are requiring more human interaction than has previously, and in some cases, verbal reassurance is needed for the traveller about their upcoming travel plans.
When booking we want reassurance. If anything goes wrong, we want to have support to quickly get our money back, to make changes and not have to go through an arduous claims process that takes us to the brink of a nervous breakdown listening to tinny on-hold music. Sometimes it is reassuring to have somebody on the end of the phone giving us confidence and support that the booking we’re making is going to be right for the trip we are about to make.
Support for the Travel Manager and Travel Bookers
Travel has never been so complex. What was considered fairly normal PRE-COVID, is now often seen as going above and beyond. Even the little things such as… breakfast at a hotel buffet, being able to get a hire car at an airport, or an inflight meal can now prove problematic!
As companies again begin to think about employee travel there is a lot of unknown variables that can be of concern to Travel Managers and those responsible for their own travel for business purposes. One of the challenges the travellers face is that normal service is not in place yet. Business travellers who have not regularly travelled since lockdown 1, 2 or 3 may find it daunting to book travel for the first time in a while.
It is up to us a Travel Management Company to give clear first-hand up to date information to reassure Travel Managers that their staff will be looked after, and travellers can rely on us to give them the best travel plans. At Meon Valley Travel we have extended our core service operating hours to 08:00 – 20:00 so that we are around to answer any questions travellers may have, we also operate a 24-7, 365 out of hours service for our customers.
Employee expectations have changed too, there is generally less enthusiasm for group meetings and business travel, especially if it is at short notice. Due to the legal changes throughout the COVID pandemic, staff are left unsure of what they can and can’t do. Travel policy documentation may have remained the same for some organisations but the social expectation for travel has changed, especially as we see the lifting of the lockdown restrictions.
Employees also now expect more support when booking travel. Looking after employee’s safety, and well-being whilst travelling for business is often termed ‘Duty of Care’. During this pandemic there has been significant investment into new systems to support travel managers in delivering Duty of Care, from systems that can report on pandemic hotspots, to travel restriction changes and the programmes can also automatically report travel changes and challenges to Travel Managers. Duty of Care software developments have been rapid, well-funded and implemented by Travel Management Companies wanting to assist Business Travel Managers support staff to return to travel.
In this interim period – even more assurance is required for staff. In some cases, staff have had very little exposure to the outside world, and some have become accustomed to and thriving in these working from home conditions. However, when business travel resumes, they may require some reassurance about their travel.
Before COVID-19 employers could expect staff to jump on a train and book a hotel room on their way to the meeting. However, as expectations and social norms shift, employers are expected to support staff and be responsible for the safety of their staff more than ever. Duty of Care software has really seen rapid developments across this period especially in traveller safety, pandemic hotspots and links to the latest FCDO travel restrictions as well as integrated SMS messaging of travellers abroad or about to travel.
Employers are also seeing an increased level of car hire compared with train travel, with many employees preferring the bubble of a hired safe space.
Flying and Travel Scheduling is in Disarray
Across the board, every airline and rail provider has amended their scheduling due to COVID-19. With reduced staffing and increased changes and administration required it is difficult for members of the public to get the latest guaranteed flight or rail schedule information. If you do currently have a Travel Management Company, they will repeatedly check on your behalf saving you time checking flight or rail information. Travel Management Companies will also have access to back-end booking systems and access to preferential travel agent only telephone numbers to check your booking for you too.
Crossbreed of Technology and People
Getting the perfect balance between People and Technology is incredibly important at the moment, we’ve invested heavily in both to ensure our customers are able to be in control of their bookings and be able to speak to a human without getting hold music!
If you are currently using a Travel Management Company that is great, use them they are well placed to give you the latest information. If you aren’t currently using a Travel Management Company or are unhappy with the service that your current TMC is providing and you are interested in exploring the next steps to improving your travel management we’d be delighted to chat and help you make the right decision for your staff.