Many businessmen whose companies are commonly engaged in a lot of business travel may be looking at the title of this article and thinking. ‘’You’ve got to be kidding! How do we know when the goalposts keep changing so rapidly?’’ Well, that’s true enough. We recently saw South Africans ruthlessly cut off from international travel, thanks once again to the emergence of another COVID variant. I, and most of our country, believe this was unwarranted and unnecessary but at least for now, we are stuck with it. The damage has been done, but does that mean we will not continue to fight for our survival? I think not. If we have learned anything, it is that when in a storm, wave after wave will probably continue to come, and only those who learn to float and ride the current will eventually find dry land.
So, will your business have a travel agenda for next year? – of course it will. Whether it is internationally or locally based or both, the need for face to face interactions will always be there and the lure of travel for many employees will still be an enticing one. It is in light of this belief, that I offer just a little advice to business owners as we approach 2022 around how you may be able to create a more streamlined travel experience, regardless of what we are facing, in the new year.
Scalability and scenario planning
It is really important right now to be able to scale down and scale up again very quickly. Some believe this is better achieved through outsourcing, which to an extent is true, but it is also important to keep certain people with specialist skills, trained within your business, to remain as the core for when upscaling becomes necessary. Until just a few weeks ago my business was faced with a need to upscale rapidly, due to a boom in international and local travel, and it was only through having planned this and keeping key people on board that I believe we would have been able to achieve this. This wave too will pass and you need to be able to make quick decisions and be ready for it. Also, be cognisant of trends you are seeing and what they are going to mean.
Plan a travel calendar
Despite whatever changes may happen regarding international travel, it is important to have your travel plans for the year in place. Local travel to business meetings, conferences and events is buoyant and will continue to grow. You need to ask yourself some important questions like will you be attending these events? Who will you probably send? Will you attend as regularly as before? From four events a year will you possibly cut this to two a year and do more online interactions? How many people will you send? On another track, will you have incentive schemes of travel opportunities for staff or be offering this as a part of a recruitment package?”
Factor in sustainability initiatives
I’ve mentioned this a few times in other articles but it is an important factor now, in business travel in particular, as businesses need to be seen to be socially aware and willing to support sustainability initiatives. This will mean that consideration of how you travel, how often you travel, where you choose to hold events and training employees of good sustainability practices should all come into a travel agenda for 2022. Business trips now need to be meaningful – it should be planned that you do not fly just to attend one meeting or conference but that within the same trip you combine it with sales calls or meetings with the rest of the team to share business best practices. Always try to add more to the itinerary for a trip, thereby maximising the value and minimising unnecessary travel. It may sound like, as a travel company we are shooting ourselves in the foot by offering this advice, but we too need to have a social conscience!
Advance booking and planning is advantageous
Once you have an idea of what your travel agenda for 2022 looks like, it will serve you well to communicate it with your TMC so they too can plan accordingly and match the best resources and products to meet your needs. There are many advantages to be had from advance bookings. And, given the current circumstances, most hospitality role players will give full refunds for cancellations as a result of COVID issues.
Those of you who have followed my articles will know by now that regardless of the nature of the setbacks we have had to face, and this last one was significant, we will not just throw our arms up and surrender. We are a nation of resilient people and we will, for now at least, focus our efforts on rebuilding our domestic travel and hospitality industries – and be ready to proudly take our place once again on the global stage.
Be safe, be prepared – and never let the wanderlust die!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER