Covid epidemic issues have affected all aspects of travel, including, but not limited to the suppliers with reduced demand during the pandemic and now also the evolved demands of the business traveler. Business travelers have become a bit more discerning when committing to a business trip, and leisure travel has taken a forward position as people feel the need to get away and explore. The industry is shifting to manage these swings, and that is resulting in a fresh crop of issues.
Current Challenges of Transportation
In 2020, in-person meetings pretty much went the way of the Dodo. However, unlike that extinct and mysterious bird, they are making a comeback, and in some cases, with a vengeance. As transportation works to adapt once more to a changing travel environment, we remember that it has typically held a unique set of challenges. Suppliers continue to identify and either resolve or lessen the impact of flight delays or cancellations, tight seating, overhead baggage space, and lost luggage, to name a few. Similarly, ground transportation has also seen ongoing development as ride share options grow, vehicle rental companies work to support varying demands, and black car services compete within the market.
With pilot shortages, aircraft non-availability, and airport staffing issues, there are more delays and cancelled flights, but fewer options. Carriers have had to “prune” their offerings to provide the best and most popular flights to meet the current demands of business travel, resulting in higher prices as the demand outstrips the supply. Rental car companies are working hard to retain inventory for the increased demand, while still maintaining safety measures which contribute to escalating costs.
Procedures to Adapt for Future Meetings
For meeting planners, these challenges are very real and may vary depending on the location, time of the year, and number of attendees. Pre-Covid standard operating procedures have evolved to account for these differences as meeting planners adapt.
- Airfare Contingency Plans – Since delays and cancellations are a bit more prevalent, look for flights earlier in the day so that same-day change options are available, if needed.
- Sticker Shock – Flight prices have escalated alarmingly. Book flights as soon as possible to leverage the best rates and work with carriers to work in discount codes whenever possible.
- Shuttle Coordination – Group travelers for ground transportation with a shuttle service or utilize destination property options. This reduces the rideshare/taxi “wait line” and may contribute camaraderie amongst the attendees as a side benefit.
- Attendee Buy-In – verify (and then verify again) that the attendee is committed, barring, of course worst-case scenarios. This reduces changes and later juggling of itineraries.
- Would You Like an “App” With That? – Work with a meeting software company to develop an app to help streamline the process and manage changes. Often this app can be revamped and reused (always a good thing!) so it continues to benefit future meetings and budgets.
The Upcoming Growth of Business Travel and Success
Interestingly the Harvard Business Review article “Study Shows Business Travel Correlates to Economic Growth,” published August 13, 2020, reported that there is a definite correlation with a country’s economic growth and rate of business travel. Additionally, the authors hypothesized that the dramatic removal of human contact would stifle the movement of knowledge and development of ideas, potentially resulting in a rather lack-luster economic landscape. As meetings and events continue to populate, the excitement and enthusiasm of the participants feed into the movement of knowledge and as a result, success for all involved.