The world may be getting ready to ‘live with COVID’, but the journey is probably going to be a tricky one.
India resumed regular international flights from 27 March 2022 ending a two-year long suspension. Multiple countries, including most of the European ones, are now open for travel. More people are traveling on business, as evidenced by a surge in business travel bookings seen in recent weeks. Amidst all this growing optimism, we continue to see gathering clouds of uncertainty. Emergence of new COVID-19 variants, the ongoing outbreak in China and the war in Ukraine continue to affect travel recovery.
In this environment, if you are planning an international business travel in the near future, there are certain factors to keep in mind. Based on our experience over the past few weeks in helping our customers return to travel, here are the top four.
1. Air Fare
Even though restrictions on international flights have been lifted in India, airlines have not yet returned to their pre-COVID level capacities. It may take weeks for airlines to increase the number of flights and of course this will be driven by demand. In addition to this, there is the impact of prevailing oil prices and route restrictions triggered by the crisis in Ukraine. Hence be prepared for the fact that air fare, especially international, may continue to remain high for the near future. At the same time, try not to lock yourself into high-price, non-flexible fares unless the travel is urgent and immediate. Give yourself a chance, in case the situation improves and fares do come down.
For Indian travelers who require visas for their international travel, the situation remains challenging. Many countries, including the US, are yet to open for new business visa applications. There is also the huge backlog of existing applications waiting to be processed. All of this means that getting appointments for visa interviews can be very difficult and there are major processing delays even post that. Till these challenges get cleared, companies are better off trying to see how to optimally utilize the existing visas its employees may be holding.
3. Travel Checklists
Travel policies and checklists will remain dynamic and complex. Companies will need to continuously adapt to guidelines and restrictions imposed by various countries and situations, in order to ensure that their employees are able to travel safely, in compliance with prevalent rules. Companies are encouraged to leverage technology solutions and expert advice to ensure that they are always up to date with rules and regulations.
4. Longer Stays
Average hotel nightly rates in major business travel destinations are reported to be 20% to 30% lower compared to 2019. This coupled with the high air fares means that many companies are now planning for less frequent travels, but with longer stays at the destination. See if that works for you.
In summary, to navigate effectively through these short-term challenges, companies would need access to real-time travel information as well as support from experienced travel consultants. That means access to right technology solutions combined with appropriate human intervention. If you have questions on how this can be achieved cost effectively, please reach out to us.