Updated: May 13
Resuming business travel in a post-corona world
With the welcome news that many countries are now moving to relax the most severe COVID-19 restrictions, it is more important than ever to ensure that your business is ready to scale up and operate once more. We expect most countries to relax measures in a staged manner and there is likely to be the reintroduction of some controls as subsequent “waves” of COVID-19 infection come along, but the direction of travel is clear.
However, these lifting of restrictions do not mean a return to business as usual. Certain measures (like social distancing) are likely to be with us for an extended period. How you manage business operations will need to change to reflect the “new normal” and to maintain Duty of Care for your employees. In this blog I’d like to take a look at Travel Risk and what additional issues you will need to consider in the post-COVID World.
While overseas travel may not be a viable option at this stage, it is something you should be planning for now.
The post-COVID World presents a number of additional risks to your travellers and challenges for how you can support them. The answers to these will be very destination and company specific - and Tapis Intelligence is here to assist with working through your options - but we hope that this triggers some useful conversations and considerations:
1. “High Risk” travellers
In some cases you may need to consider limiting who can travel – the definition of “high risk” travellers has changed. Research into COVID-19 strongly suggests that certain underlying health conditions present a higher risk to those infected. These include relatively common conditions such as diabetes, obesity and of course age. How do you identify travellers with higher risk profiles? How do you open these conversations with your staff without bumping up against privacy and equal opportunities legislation? How do you ensure that you have the latest medical advice as our knowledge of COVID-19 continues to evolve?
2. “Low Risk” Locations
COVID-19 will move through different countries at different times, and second and third waves of infection are likely. WHO recently stated that the infection in Europe was getting under control, but they expected Africa to become the next major seat of infection, meanwhile many Chinese cities (where the virus began) have been the first to open up. How does your company decide which are acceptable destinations for travel? And how do you monitor these on an ongoing basis?
Where you have decided the travel destination is safe for work, are you happy with travellers going through major transit hubs or using connecting flights where they might encounter travellers from higher risk locations? Or should you limit travel to direct flights only?
4. Insurance and Medivac
You should check that coverage is sufficient in the post-COVID world. We expect that having valid insurance will be a key gateway for companies as they open up their travel programmes. Similarly it will be essential to understand that medivac options are open and your providers confirm they can deliver them.
5. Availability of local medical care
If travellers are injured or taken ill (from a non-COVID disease) would a hospital/clinic visit lead to higher risk of infection? Is general healthcare functioning adequately at the destination?
6. Treatment of COVID patients locally
If your travellers showed symptoms of COVID-19 how would they be treated by the local authorities at their destination, or on any transit points along the way? For example, you may want to defer travel to any location where your people might risk being confined in a state run quarantine centre; similarly you will want to review the potential impact on them when they arrive back home – are they expected to go into any kind of self isolation?
7. First Aid kit / hand gel / PPE
Should you provide your travellers with any of these to take with them on their trip? Are these items reliably available at their destination? Do you need to get a central supply of these prepared for travellers? And what local restrictions are in place? For example, it is now mandatory to wear masks in public in many countries.
What is appropriate and safe? Do large international hotels, with high numbers of customers from a range of locations present a higher risk? Is it better to use smaller hotels or private rentals such as Airbnb? Or do these present other safety and security concerns? A lot will depend on the individual destination.
9. Destination Specific Travel Advice
Every country has its own restrictions and social distancing measures in place, and these regularly change. How will you remain up to date with applicable measures at the travel destination? Also, what advice will you be giving travellers on how they should behave at the destination? Are they free to move around or go to restaurants? Will you ask them to remain in their hotel expect for essential business reasons?
10. Emergency Support
Who is going to provide support and answers to travellers' questions? If you have external security providers, are they ready for this? It would be sensible to speak to your providers and ensure their advice still fits your needs in their new World.
What is probably clear from the questions above is that, in the post-COVID world, there will be no one-size-fits-all solution. Not only will the travel destinations look different, but the way in which you do business may have radically altered. That’s why its important to start planning your new approach to duty of care now - so your organisation can get back to business as quickly and safely as possible.
Philip Stewart is the Head of Intelligence for Tapis Intelligence, a global intelligence network on-hand to provide strategic advice and insight on over 130 countries around the world.