You don’t know what you've got until it’s gone – a viewpoint from our disgruntled corporate traveller

6 October, 2020

It is often said that you don't know the true value of something until you no longer have it. Whether that is the loss of a relation, a prized possession, even a colleague, sometimes you don't consider the true value until you enter the void. Victor A Forcenteain, our disgruntled corporate traveller, bemoans the lack of business travel.

"I have to confess that I didn't always enjoy business travel. All those early mornings, standing in line, waiting, another flight, waiting, another hotel room, waiting, another meeting, endless expense claims, missing loved ones' birthdays, the kids' school performances … you know the score.

"There was a time when I seemed to be constantly on the move, attending conferences to listen to more experts, all those sales meetings. Not to mention waking up in a different hotel room and for several moments lying there wondering, literally, where on earth I was.

"Back in January I recall starting out on a business trip wishing that I didn't have to go. It had been lovely being at home over the Christmas holiday and I wanted that to go on a bit longer… Oh how you have to be careful what you wish for! As the old song goes, you don't know what you got 'til it's gone! As we all know, March comes along and suddenly Covid-19 is threatening our lives in so many ways and we all have to stay at home, whether we want to or not.

"Now my working day consists of always waking up in my own bed, walking downstairs to my office, switching on the laptop, checking emails and arranging yet another video conference call. No flights to arrange or catch, no expense claims, no face to face meetings with clients, no conferences to attend, no networking, no on the run coffees and lunches.

"I'm hankering after just one more early morning flight, another anonymous hotel room, the need to remember to put my toiletries in a small bag. I really do miss all that now! The novelty of working from home has well and truly worn off!

"Business travel is in the doldrums and we need to get it up and running again as fast as possible. There is no video conference call that can ever replace meeting up with a client and having those conversations that just don't work via Zoom. I certainly can't visit factories and see how work is progressing and meeting new clients is terribly sterile via a computer screen so there's little chance to really bond and start a relationship.

"Humans thrive on human interaction and being denied the ability to do that is really harming all of us. We are adventurous and inquisitive and need to have social interaction with others. It's the little personal things that we miss on a video call, the body language that's so important to us although we rarely understand it fully or give it credit.

"The will of the people, airports and airlines is all there to commence PCR testing before we fly so that no-one ever starts out on a journey with the virus, whether asymptomatic or not. Governments need to start listening and making it happen, while still employing a raft of other hygiene initiatives to deliver a true layered approach to traveller safety.

"It's been six months and counting and the virus is not going away anytime soon, so we are going to have to learn to live with it. Life cannot be put on hold any longer so we need that testing regime to become normal.

"As I've said before, we have to obtain visas and even vaccines for some countries, so getting a PCR test before we travel will become the norm very quickly. We got used to the security requirements that are now required and we'll get used to obtaining a test before we travel. It will become just another item to obtain, along with ticket, passport, visa and hotel booking.

"The door to business travel is ajar and needs a good shove to get it fully open. I want to get back to travelling again and loving the things I hate about business travel! Come on governments, look sharp. Us corporate travellers need to get back out there for the sake of our sanity as well as to provide much-needed support to numerous embattled industries - travel, transport, hospitality, ground transfer, restaurants… the list could go on."