Environmental sustainability has taken something of a back seat in the last 12 months as the world and the corporate travel industry has come to terms with the impact of the global pandemic. This important discussion should not disappear and in fact be at the forefront of the industry’s thinking as we begin to see recovery come back.
The pandemic has given us the option to review the industry’s environmental footprint, reset our thinking and ultimately right some of the wrongs of the past. The question remains, what can the industry do to improve?
HRS director of enterprise solutions Australasia and South East Asia, Philippa Johns, speaking during a this month’s CTC – Corporate Travel Community Masterclass session at the Mar-2021 edition of CAPA Live – a monthly virtual summit, offering insights, information, data and live interviews with airline CEOs and industry executives across a next-gen virtual event platform – acknowledged organisations are taking sustainability “more seriously”.
Ms Johns noted that “if we don’t start in 2021” to reach net zero targets by 2050, “it’s going to be very hard to achieve that”. The intent is there to deliver of sustainability goals, according to Ms Johns, who cited a recent Skyscanner survey that revealed 71% of travellers would select the service “with the lowest carbon output” if it was understood this at the point of purchase.
Ms Johns was a panellist alongside Rob Dell, leader, strategic sales and sustainability at American Express Global Business Travel and Kurt Knackstedt, co-founder and CEO of Troovo Technologies at the Masterclass session, which worked to understand what new improvements are being implanted, what targets are being put in place and the expectations of travellers with regard environmental sustainability in 2021.
The session also discussed some of the technology that exists to allow corporate programmes to make informed decisions about sustainability, and how travel managers can prepare for a renewed emphasis on environmental sustainability.
The CTC Masterclass was just part of the CTC supported content during the Mar-2021 session of CAPA Live. In Benson’s Bow-Tie Briefing, Dr Benson Tang, executive director of CTC – Corporate Travel Community, spoke to Dean Fowles, head of travel at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to get the travel buyer perspective on the current state of the market.
He stated the financial institution is optimistic and looking at reopening travel, but added: “We don’t know when that is going to occur”. Mr Fowles stated the decisions are “bound by when a country will open up” and that ADB is focusing on how to move people “at a way that won’t put them at risk” when corporate travel resumes.
Mr Fowles believes corporate travel “is going to come back”, adding there will be a further shift towards ‘bleisure’ travel which is currently “keeping the industry going in a lot of places”. He added there has also been a shift towards a work from home culture, adding companies have “picked up on the benefits of not having to pay for real estate”.
Dr Benson Tang also spoke to John O’Shea, a senior research analyst at Ord Minnett, a leading national private wealth management group that provides advice and tailored investment solutions. Mr O’Shea described an outlook for the corporate travel sector that is “very vaccine-dependent”, noting that “The main factor determining the outlook will be the pace of vaccine rollouts” supported by initiatives such as digital passports and rapid COVID-19 testing.
Mr O’Shea stated the coronavirus pandemic “has had a massively negative impact on corporate travel right across the globe” with corporate travel volumes down by 70% to 100% in most regions, compared to pre-pandemic levels. He noted the corporate travel areas that have “suffered the least” are typically those exposed to the resources, government and essential services industries.
Meanwhile, in a special executive interview, Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner, CEO, Flight Centre Group revealed to Peter Harbison, founder and chairman emeritus, CAPA – Centre for Aviation, an expectation that as the coronavirus vaccination is rolled out international travel to major destinations will begin to open up in Jun/Jul-2021 and that will support the group’s own activities.
“From a strategy point of view, we’re trying to make sure we maintain our assets in all of the 23 countries we operate equity in, that was important from the start… Now, it’s a matter of taking advantage of the vaccination rollout and we hope that on the road to recovery, we can bring people back as time goes on,” he said.
Mr Turner said North America and the UK are likely to recover “much more quickly” than Australia due to the vaccination rollout. He added: “Combine that with a high infection rate, which is not good while you’re going through it but coming out of it means a lot more people will have a level of immunity whether they’ve been vaccinated or not”.
Mr Turner has been very vocal in 2021 regarding border restrictions, vaccination rollouts and the future of travel in Australia and the world and has called for a national coronavirus protocol across Australia “that everyone agrees with and states must trust each other to deal with hotspots as they come up.”
According to Mr Turner, the opening and closing of state borders in Australia has caused widespread frustration and caused travellers to be “gun-shy about travelling interstate”. “We have our fingers crossed that the [Australian state] borders will stay open from Mar-2021,” he said, adding he believes domestic confidence will return through the month.