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Monday 6 September 2021

Travel Buyer Priorities as Business Travel Returns: EU Travel & Covid Complexities

Travel Buyer Priorities as Business Travel Returns: EU Travel & Covid Complexities
Business travellers can no longer just jump on a plane

It would be an understatement to say that the last 18 months have been ‘challenging’ for the whole business travel community. But there appears to be a glimmer of light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

Travel managers are reporting a significant increase in demand for UK and US domestic business travel. A recent poll of our global, EMEA and UK buyer members revealed that additional layers of approval, implemented during the pandemic for domestic travel, are being removed. OBTs have also been switched on again for most domestic bookings.

The UK government’s announcement that fully vaccinated European and US travellers can enter England without quarantine, and more countries moving to the amber and green lists, are a step in the right direction for facilitating international business travel into the UK. However, the word ‘challenging’ is still a very apt description for managing international travel to other countries and regions, and it’s likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

The obvious challenge for travel managers is how to navigate layers of complexity and logistics around Covid-testing protocols, vaccination certificates and quarantine requirements for each country before a business trip can go ahead.

What is less obvious is the knock-on effect in terms of managing travellers’ expectations that they can no longer just jump on a plane. This is emerging as a key issue for ITM’s buyer members who currently have their work cut out educating travellers and bookers that, although travel is returning, it’s far from business as usual. Trips need to be carefully planned well in advance and itineraries should maximise time in a destination to support Covid testing requirements as well as sustainability initiatives.  

Other thorny issues are also now coming to light regarding travel to, from and within the EU. Whilst business travel was supressed because of the pandemic, the impact of Brexit on EU travel regulations was firmly on the back burner. But as international travel increases, it’s become a priority for buyers.

For that reason, we recently established an EU Travel Taskforce consisting of travel buyers, immigration and visa specialists, legal representatives and tax consultants to unravel the complexities of topics such as A1 certification and the EU Posted Worker Directive. The key issue for travel managers is making sure they understand fully the requirements for business travellers when entering EU countries, to enable them to give those travellers crystal clear information about what to expect at the border, make sure they have the right paperwork and ensure travellers don’t face disruption.

Travel managers have, for many years, needed to be adaptable and embrace new frames of reference, but the last 18 months took this to unprecedented heights. Their priorities have morphed through countless phases during the pandemic. I am always in awe of how they can manage such complex issues constantly. Next time you meet with a travel manager, ask what they are focussed on in the short term. I guarantee you will have your eyes opened and gain a new level of respect.

This blog was posted by Scott Davies, CEO, Institute of Travel Management ( ITM’s travel buyer members and board directors taking part in conference sessions at Business Travel Show Europe include Alison Rogan (ITM Chair/Head of Travel & Expense, Barclays), Kerrie Henshaw-Cox (Associate Director, AstraZeneca) and Andrew Georgel (Director of Procurement - Travel, McKinsey & Company). Register for FREE access to #BTSEurope now.


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