Before the COVID pandemic, a survey published by IdeaWorks Company ranked “sales and securing clients” as the leading purpose for a business trip. That was followed by “intra-company meetings” and “conventions and trade shows”. Will this trend continue post-COVID? In these next two editions of Bow-Tie Briefing I am very honoured to have invited a long time corporate travel industry veteran, Amarnath Lal Das, the vice president of travel, meeting and events with Accenture in India, to share his views.
Benson: Good morning Amarnath, a warm welcome as our guest of honour today. First things first, please update us on the latest situation in India.
Amarnath: India looks a bit better. Domestic travel is now gradually picking up, so that is positive. However, cross border travel is still very limited. It will take time for the recovery of international travel.
Benson: No doubt, it is extremely challenging. But from a senior management point of view, have you noticed any particular changes in opinion from them?
Amarnath: Due to the pandemic, business travel will move one level up from senior management. Traditionally, travel is viewed as an operational process. But now after COVID, travel management is to be viewed more from a strategic level, as there is overall more focus on duty of care and the human resources angle. Staff are considered an asset to any firm and protecting their safety and well-being during the pandemic are paramount. Senior management believe corporate travel will come back, but it will be in a different form. In India for instance, there used to be lots of travel between offices, such as from Delhi to Bangalore, from Mumbai to Hyderabad…etc. Inter-office travel may decrease, as corporates might need to give up some office space and optimise their spend.
Benson: Yes, different countries have different situations. Could you elaborate a bit more about the scenario in India?
Amarnath: Sure. Two points to note in India which are different from other countries. One of the high transaction travel volumes is for visa application trips, though this is not a major spend area, as the amount is much smaller comparatively speaking. For example in Bangalore, there is no US Consulate and the nearest one is located in Chennai. If one needs to get a US visa, a visa application trip flying to Chennai is required. Another example is business trips due to business contingency. A business contingency plan (BCP) happens quite frequently in India. For instance, during monsoon season, Mumbai could get heaving flooding. Hence, clients and internal travel contingency implementation plans have to be carried out for backup.
Benson: Let’s deeper-dive and discuss your view on the purpose of business trips pre and post COVID. According to research, “sales and securing clients” are amongst the most important reasons for airline business travel. What’s your view?
Amarnath: For a “sales and securing clients” business trip, depending on the nature of business, most of the corporate travel is expected to increase. In my opinion, everybody is trying to salvage their business post COVID. “Being there” remains an important attribute for sales, and sales people need to sit with the clients to regain businesses. However, in the IT business it might be different. Due to the need of portraying high-end technology, they might utilise new technology and social media more to replace the need of travel.
In the next edition of the Bow-Tie briefing, we will continue the tête-à-tête discussion with the industry guru Amarnath. Please stay tuned. 😊