Bow-Tie Briefing – never give up, never despair (Part 2)

10 August, 2020

Dear travel managers, corporate travel industry partners and road warriors from all around the world,

First things first, my heartfelt gratitude for all the kind words and encouragement received after the inaugural edition of our brand new "Bow-Tie Briefing" two weeks ago.

To refresh your memory, in our previous edition, three new norms in our corporate travel industry were discussed, namely: 1) New quarantine measures; 2) New inter-regional mutual recognition of health QR code; and 3) Rapid Covid-19 nucleic acid test.

There are a few more "new normals" which I would like to elaborate on this time:

  • New health standardisation

Confidence levels of business travellers has significantly diminished due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The consequence of this outbreak, however, unites all stakeholders in our travel industry including but not limited to governments, health experts, airlines, hoteliers, ground transportation suppliers, TMCs…etc. to sit down and work together to achieve effective recovery protocols by developing meaningful action plans that optimise sector-wide recovery efforts.

For instance, renowned international organisations like the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) are leading various travel industry stakeholders to create global protocols which formalise new health standards.

In our own CTC Masterclass, one of our distinguished panellists - Global Head of Travel, Meetings and Events of Ernst & Young - Karen Hutchings mentioned: "There should be a single standard for health and safety protocols across airports, airlines, hotels and other travel suppliers. Adopting the same requirements, regardless of the stage of the journey, would help us ensure our employees know what to expect when travelling and give them more confidence to potentially start."

This aspiration exemplifies the desperate need in the corporate travel world for a new global health standardisation, so that travellers' confidence will resume.

  • Demanding innovative health measures

In order to further mitigate travellers' health and safety risks, corporate travel managers will demand more innovative and unprecedented health measures from suppliers. Recently, on top of social distancing, more and more buyers are requesting that suppliers implement new health technology such as a nano photocatalyst coating to be sprayed on all furniture surface in a hotel room. The synthesis of a nano size TiO2 coating is that when it is exposed to sunlight all organic substances on the surface are decomposed, destroying the virus and purifying air quality.

Senior Director Account Management of Egencia - Teresa Matheson revealed during a CTC Masterclass that: "Company liability and risk has changed considerably. In response to the coronavirus pandemic and business travel RFP will need to be redesigned to accommodate the new conditions and needs."

  • Fortified partnership

"2021 will be the year of working with suppliers to get the results we both want and key to seeing how partnerships work." said Melissa Willock - Global Travel Director and Head of Corporate Events of Informa Plc in another CTC Masterclass. To attain the win-win-win relationship, i.e. buyer/supplier/traveller relationship, undoubtedly all parties must work proactively and closely together to strengthen the 360 degree partnership cooperation. One of the four guiding principles of Informa Plc is "success is a partnership" - which is a principle of wisdom that can certainly be applied to our corporate travel industry.

  • Face-to-face is a key ingredient in the travel cake

In the United Airlines' second quarter earnings call on 23-Jul-2020, its CEO Scott Kirby mentioned: "There'll be a rapid recovery once we get to some kind of a widespread vaccine." His CCO Andrew Nocella then further commented: "We are social creatures. Video technology is proved as a reasonable temporary measure, but we do not expect it to replace meeting in person over the long term."

Like many others, my idol is Chinese superstar Bruce Lee. One of his legendary mottos was: "Do not pray for an easy life! Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one!" This absolutely applies to the current challenging situation that we are all now enduring. Nevertheless, my personal belief is "Rainbows will appear after heavy rainfall", so let's keep our good spirits up! Never give up, never despair!

Bow-Tie Briefing shares the views of Benson Tang, a corporate travel thought leader and executive director of the Corporate Travel Community (CTC). Benson's remarkable career in travel started more than 25 years ago and his extensive knowledge of the corporate travel sector has made him a sought-after speaker and lecturer.