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Remaining calm in turbulent times

August 29, 2016 Business News No Comments Email Email

The travel industry has been rocked by a series of incidents since the start of 2016. Ranging from terrorist attacks to aviation incidents, these events have become a mainstay of news outlets all over the world, inciting widespread fear and uncertainty over the safety of travel to some of the world’s top travel destinations for both business and leisure. The seriousness of the situation is underscored by a recent travel advisory issued by the U.S. Department of State, firmly warning Americans of the potential risks of travelling to Europe[1].

Bertrand Saillet_General Manager_FCM Travel Solutions Singapore

As a business traveller, one should be cognisant of both the immediate and the long-term consequences of these events. While the long-term impact of these events remain to be seen, the immediate impact of these events alone has made it especially critical across the industry. For instance, according to STR Global, the hotel occupancy rate in Paris plummeted by more than half from 77.1% on 13 November to 36.1% on 22nd November. Hotels in Brussels also reported a similar trajectory[2], indicating a possible loss in consumer confidence in these travel destinations.

In light of this, here are some pointers for business travellers that will help them stay ahead of the game while minimising any associated risks with travel.

Staying a mile ahead

Business travellers should continually stay abreast of the latest developments globally. Given the multitude of incidents taking place globally, failing to do so would lead to being caught unaware when something does happen and having to divert precious time and resources to resolve any resulting issues. For business travellers, the first step that they can take is to note the travel advisories issued by their respective home countries. This provides a genuine indication on how safe it is to travel to the desired destination. In doing so, business travellers will have a clearer understanding of the risks associated with different travel destinations.

In addition to these short-term advisories, business travellers should take stock of travel guidelines that might help to expedite their travel. For instance, travellers intending to travel to the United States should consider Global Entry, a program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers[3]. Such programs allow business travellers to whizz through the security checkpoints upon arrival, relieving a long-standing headache for most travellers. In addition, business travellers should also consider changing their passports to biometric passports where possible, as it often allows for a quicker clearance upon arrival at most travel destinations.

Making an informed forecast

Beyond the short run, travellers should also pay close attention to broader macroeconomic events to understand their impact on business travel. With the recent exit of Britain from the European Union, there has been some immediate uncertainty, resulting in a slight downward trend for business travel. In the long run however, Britain’s exit will require them to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allows them two years to officially separate from the European Union. In negotiating its exit, Britain will have to mediate issues regarding border control, entry and exit visas as well as aviation regulations. Being informed on these pertinent issues beforehand will allow businesses to plan how their company travel will be affected, therefore minimising the risk arising from the uncertainty.

Likewise, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had fully ratified a series of open skies agreements, which consist of a set of multilateral agreements on liberalisation of air freight and passengers’ services, earlier this year.[4] Business travellers can expect air travel within the grouping of ten countries to become smoother as well as cheaper, in anticipation of increased competition arising from the liberalised market. Businesses should capitalise on this to better plan their business travel needs so as to reap the potential cost savings.

Duty of Care

In addition to saving on business travel costs as well as accounting for the risk arising from travelling, there is an added impetus for businesses to constantly stay ahead as companies are obligated to look after their employees travelling on work. From the employees’ perspective, they would like to be reassured that their safety and well-being is taken care of. It is a clear win for both employers and business travellers as when the latter travels with a peace of mind, they are better able to focus on their work. To do so, employers should consider travel policies which set in place broad guidelines for both the employers and employees to follow with respect to business travel.

Steadying the ship

Be it market uncertainty arising from the exit of Britain or ongoing socio-political turmoil, such issues never bode well for business, and very often business travel is affected too. Despite this, businesses have little option but to soldier on and to account for the new risks. In terms of business travel, doing so involves being continually up-to-date on global news so that they can plan ahead, for the benefit of both their businesses as well as their employees. This will go a long way in helping businesses remain calm in turbulent times.

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