Now that the COVID vaccine is widely available, how should it affect the way corporations update their travel policies and manage their travel programs?
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect life around the world, the COVID vaccine has lessened the impact on travel — both for business and for leisure.
As of late January 2022, about 209 million Americans were fully vaccinated — which represents 63.4% of the country’s population. Around the world, about 60.2% of the population had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 9.79 billion doses had been administered globally. More than 30 million doses are being given to the world population each day.
The COVID vaccine’s proliferation has brought us out of lockdown and back to a day-to-day life that is approaching normalcy. As we draw closer to normalcy, how should Travel Managers update and adjust their travel policies? And how should the management of travel programs change? Here’s a look at 3 key considerations for Travel Managers as a larger percentage of the population becomes fully vaccinated.
1. How to Update Your Travel Policy
Travel policies should always be dynamic, changing to match the latest technologies, the most current best practices, and the needs of business Travelers. But travel policies have become even more dynamic in the age of COVID-19, constantly changing to match the latest health conditions in the United States and around the globe.
The COVID vaccine’s spread to most of the population should inspire further changes to your corporate travel policy. Key decisions for Travel Managers to make include:
- Deciding whether it’s appropriate or helpful to incentivize team members to get vaccinated.
- Creating a new threshold for travel that is considered critical or essential.
- Designing a framework for working with both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees who don’t feel comfortable traveling.
- Aligning travel policies to different geographies. Should your travel policy be different for international travel than for domestic travel?
The COVID vaccine has allowed businesses across a broad spectrum of industries to rebuild momentum that was lost in the early days of the pandemic. Your updated travel policy should focus on the continuation of that momentum — while also balancing to maximize the health, wellness and safety of your Travelers.
As always, companies have a duty-of-care responsibility to their team members who are away from the office for work. Absolutely design an updated travel policy that builds momentum for the company, but never lose sight of duty of care.
2. How to Handle Digital Passports
We’ve written previously about the possibility that COVID-19 passports will soon become commonplace. When they do, Travel Managers need to be prepared to address digital passports within their travel programs. More specifically, Travel Managers will need to:
- Create a framework for evaluating different passport options that become available.
- Identify passports that are accepted by relevant countries and airlines.
- Confirm that passport options also provide privacy and security for Travelers.
- Work with IT departments to make passports available on corporate-owned devices.
- Fold passport-related policies into more comprehensive travel policies.
Of course, we’re now seeing different COVID-19 variants, like Delta from summer 2021 and Omicron in late 2021 and early 2022. Passports in development will need to ensure that they can keep pace with the dynamic nature of the virus before they are widely accepted.
3. How to Manage Testing
Testing has become a hot topic in the United States as it’s become hard to find COVID tests and the government plans to make free tests available by mail. Testing cannot be ignored within your travel program, which leaves Travel Managers the following questions to ask and answer:
- Will testing of Travelers be mandatory?
- Who will pay for testing? (Insurance providers? The company? The Traveler?)
- What is the preferred type of test?
- What happens when a Traveler tests positive while away from the office?
The cadence of tests is perhaps the most crucial thing for Travel Managers to determine. When are Travelers tested before, during and after trips? How many times do they need to be tested? Again, the purpose behind testing is simply to keep Travelers as safe and healthy as possible and keep those around your Travelers as safe and healthy as possible.
Bonus: Determine Who Should Make Vaccine-Related Travel Decisions
There’s a lot of COVID- and vaccine-related information out there. How should Travel Managers determine what sources can be trusted and what leaders internally should help make vaccine-related travel decisions?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will always be your best source for the latest COVID-related information in the United States. If you align your travel policies with recommendations from the CDC, you will help keep your Travelers safe and healthy while living up to your company’s duty-of-care responsibility.
It will be more difficult to determine who internally should be part of the decision-making process for COVID-related travel questions. As the Travel Manager, you should be the lead in gathering information and implementing decisions. Also, Travel Managers should lead the effort to form a group that provides input for the overall travel program and helps answer some of the difficult questions above.
Start with someone from the executive team. For example, a chief operations officer could be part of making COVID- and travel-related decisions. Also, bring in someone from the human resources department and leaders from different departments that often ask their employees to travel. For example, your sales team may frequently travel to meet with prospects. If that’s the case, bring the sales director into your decision-making meetings around COVID and the COVID vaccine.
Travel Safely With JTB Business Travel
At JTB Business Travel, we work with corporations around the country that are trying to navigate business travel in the age of COVID-19. We provide a series of services that help these corporations’ team members travel safely. We can provide support for creating a travel policy that responds to the realities of the pandemic, plus a duty-of-care solution that assists corporations with risk management.
Behind everything we do, and every recommendation we make is a common-sense approach to business travel. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how JTB Business Travel can support your organization.