I have always believed in the importance of people. The world, after all, turns on people. Yes, technology may have streamlined travel and tourism (and many other industries) and given us marvellous tools with which to work and improve our offerings, but it is still people servicing people, giving people what they want and keeping people happy that makes or breaks us. So, I do believe that a fully recovered Travel industry will evolve from looking after people. I am certainly not the only one to think so either, and it was in fact the reading of some interesting viewpoints put forward in a Skift (an excellent travel journal) publication that got me to thinking about this and subsequently a desire to write about it. Skift talk about how they believe that businesses should look after their people through duty of care and by offering more travel incentives (as travel now many be a more sensitive issue for individuals than it was before) and I would like to add to that the importance of TMCs looking after the people they serve, as this has become even more important now than it ever was before.
Duty of care and incentives will get people travelling again
In the Skift brochure on “Corporate travel trends in 2022” one article that touches on this says “Travelers are still concerned about staying healthy amidst the ongoing pandemic, but they expressed more confidence than in the 2021 report thanks to safety measures like vaccinations and universal masking. The biggest challenge – and opportunity – to improve duty of care is through better communication between corporate travel departments and their employees. Nearly 80% of business travellers said that getting timely information about company travel procedures is their biggest concern with returning to a regular schedule of work trips.” Communication is obviously the key here, and a lot of that kind of communication will need to be fed accurately and timeously to the corporations regularly by TMCs.
Regarding travel perks, the article says “The new normal, is personal. Companies that offer employees perks like extra time off or stipends for personal travel following business trips may gain an advantage in today’s tough employment market. This practice may also help bolster employee retention.” I have written often about Bliesure travel and that extra time tagged on to the business trip will become even more popular, we are told, as the industry recovers. This too will draw on the expertise of TMCs, as travel schedules and compliances have become far more intricate than they were in the past.
Holding the client’s hand on the journey will supersede procurement
I have also written often, about the vital role of TMC’s as we struggle to fully recover as an industry, a role that will have to not only include expert knowledge of schedules and protocols but become one of personal engagement with clients extending more to closely serving the traveller on their trip, as opposed to just devising schedules and procurement. I experienced this personally when, shortly before leaving for London on a trip last month, I had all the tests lined up for the time I was in the UK, but the logistics of my arrival in country, turnaround times & cost of the PCR test I needed on my arrival back home nearly threw a spanner in the works! I relied heavily on my travel professionals to guide me and to make this happen and this is a typical example of how TMCs now need to be with travellers through the whole travel process, as policies and processes seem to be changing very quickly.
A new breed of “Road Warrior”
Even our road warriors (those who travel all the time) the stalwarts of corporate travel, will change to become a new breed of road warriors. Providing they are looked after they will still have the desire to travel, but because many will be asked by their more cautious businesses to work from home for a while following a business trip, their work travel and personal home lives will become more intertwined. So the new road warrior (or should we say the road less travelled warrior) will expect more from a TMC to schedule travel plans so that their home life is not too heavily impacted.
Shmuley Boteach, the American Author and TV host said, “None of us are born thinking we are ordinary. Feeling special is an essential part of the human birth-right. If you don’t think you are special, you won’t seek to contribute your gift to the world.” I do believe that the most rapid way to rebuilding and restoration is through incentivising people, making them feel special and convincing them that what we are doing is worthwhile. The South African travel and tourism industry is one of the essential pillars of wealth supporting our country. Whether you are in business or a part of this industry, we need to fully support those who can make it happen!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER