BLOG: Travel Policy Relevance During COVID-19

A recent travel manager survey conducted by Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited revealed that 37% of travel managers believe it’s very important to update their travel policies at this time. We expect this percentage to rise over the next several weeks and months as leadership teams ask questions like, “what are we doing with travel?” and “what should we be doing with travel?” There will be pressure to have answers to these questions and travel policy that reflects operating in this new travel environment. So, what do we need to be thinking about as we review our travel policies?

In the near term, focus will be around health and safety, so we should be sure that our travel policies are conveying to our employees that we value their health and safety and that our goal is to provide them with relevant information and guidance for staying safe when they begin to travel again. As companies, it’s important to ask ourselves if our travel policies are empowering us to assist our travelers before their trips with location insights during their trips, as well as post-trip to alert them if they’ve been to a COVID-19 hot spot and also to protect non-travelers that could come into contact with traveling colleagues. Addressing health and safety from the viewpoint of employee concerns, as well that of the company providing guidance for this new travel environment will provide a good framework for updating travel policies.

While there will be many areas you’ll want to update, you can start with these: on-the-grid travel, supplier updates (health and safety protocols), and duty of care / travel risk management.

On-the-grid travel, i.e., making all travel reservations through your travel management company, is the best way to have accurate traveler location data at your fingertips and the ability to assist travelers pre-, during and post-travel.  Emphasizing the importance of this and encouraging travelers to adhere to this policy will be crucial in the new travel environment.

It will also be important to keep your travel policy updated on what TSA and travel suppliers are doing to keep travelers safe. TSA procedures will change and your travelers should know what to except when they start to travel again. For example, they may need to arrive to the airport sooner than they have in the past to get through security. The way we board planes will change, as well, and we want to make sure our travelers are aware of this. We’ll also want to recommend our travelers use mobile apps to check into their hotel rooms and avoid checking in at the front desk to maintain social distancing. Recommending room-service as opposed to dining out is also a recommendation for travel policies, at least in the near term. Bypassing the counter when renting a car is recommended, as well, and can be accomplished with programs like National’s Emerald Aisle and Hertz’s Gold Choice. Many companies will be recommending their travelers avoid ride-sharing companies for some time, as there are concerns with cleanliness standards and who has been in the vehicle before them.

Updated travel policies should also reiterate that companies have a duty-of-care obligation to their travelers and explain what that means, including the need for employees to adhere to travel policy so their companies can help them in an emergency.

Assessing if you can effectively manage travel risks is another question you want to be asking and if you can’t, think about utilizing a third party solution for your particular needs, e.g., medical evacuation, western-standard medical facilities overseas, or an online travel risk management platform. At Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited we offer a comprehensive online travel risk management platform that allows for pre and during travel alerts to travelers, two-way communication feature between travelers and their company, as well as the ability to pull post-travel reports. Travel risk management will take on even greater importance in the coming months, so having a way to alert travelers if they’ve booked travel to or have returned from a COVID-19 hotspot will be imperative, so think about if your organization is prepared.

Take this time to review your travel policy and make updates if necessary. For assistance, contact Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited.