While it was tempting to pop the champagne, pack our bags and prepare for lift off after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Wednesday evening address, it might not be quite so simple.
After six months of lockdown, Alert Level 1 is indeed a milestone but the reopening of our borders on 01 October doesn’t necessarily herald a return to normality. Indeed, travel may look very different for months to come.
Oz Desai, General Manager Flight Centre Business Travel, believes that while travellers are keen to get back on the road, it is not without some trepidation: “Research tells us that business travellers are keen to travel once more, not only because of zoom-fatigue and the importance of face-to-face meetings, but because they’re craving an escape – and business travel offers new experiences, bleisure opportunities and personal enjoyment. But travellers are still weighing the pros and cons, especially when it comes to COVID rules and regulations.”
Are you one of those looking to travel again? Here are 10 tips for business travel:
- Study up on your destination
Keep tabs on government notifications for your destination and stay on top of developments for your own region as well as any places you intend travelling. Will you need to produce a negative COVID test on arrival? Will you be required to self-quarantine? And if so, for how long? Does your intended destination have a curfew in place? How will their lockdown regulations impact your travel plans?
“Knowledge and preparation can reduce anxiety around travelling,” says Desai. “Make sure you get your information from a trusted source – and arm yourself with detail. Travel Managers are well placed to answer all your questions and address any concerns.”
- Travel direct – if you can
Perhaps the most daunting part of business travel at the moment is navigating air access and available air routes, including transit destinations (with their own requirements).
If possible, fly direct. Not only will it simplify matters in terms of COVID red tape, but you’ll avoid spending more time in other airports – reducing COVID touchpoints.
Desai points out that with reduced airlift, direct flights to many destinations are not a possibility at the moment. Your best bet? Chat to your Travel Manager to plot your most direct and hassle-free route.
- Source flexible booking options
Checking the small print has never been more important. A travel company like Flight Centre Business Travel will make sure you will have flexibility in terms of postponements, cancellations, refunds or vouchers. This is critical should your trip be postponed due to circumstances (for example, border closures) out of your control.
- Check that your accommodation has the ‘stamp of approval’
In South Africa, the Tourism Business Council of South has developed comprehensive health and safety protocols for all tourism-related facilities, establishments and accommodation. Importantly, the TBCSA protocols have received the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) stamp of approval. Your Travel Manager will make sure to check the establishment’s TBSCA accreditation within South Africa – and will ensure accommodation establishments have the WTTC ‘Safe Travels’ stamp when you are travelling abroad.
- Pack well
It’s never a bad idea to have a few extra cloth masks tucked away, just in case. Don’t forget to pop a travel-sized (max 100ml) bottle of hand sanitiser into your carry-on bag – and a pack of sanitising wipes always comes in handy.
Other ideas? A few buffs if you’re going to be exercising while away, your own snack packs for the flight, a good quality travel pillow – and tons of patience and a sense of humour!
- Get insured
Chat to your Travel Manager about the best insurance cover for your trip – now is not the time to wing it.
- Check in online
If you can, check in online wherever possible. This includes flights, shuttles and hotel accommodation. It is just another way of reducing COVID touch points.
- Manage your stress and look after your health & wellbeing
Business travel has always come with a particular set of stressors. Long flights, jet lag and lack of sleep to name a few. You can guard your immune system by getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet – build this into your trip by considering an extra night at your destination to relax, prioritising exercise while away, eating well, keeping hydrated and practising standard health & safety measures (wearing your mask, washing your hands etc.).
- Consider bleisure
Bleisure travel, essentially tacking leisure opportunities onto the end (or beginning) of a business trip, is on the rise. Micrometrics reports that 75% of business travellers would like to go on a bleisure trip; 60% of all business trips are now lengthened with ‘bleisure days’; and 87% of bleisure travellers are satisfied with their work-life balance.
Desai believes that bleisure is going to become increasingly important. Not only because travellers are keen to get out and explore again, but because a leisure experience will make travelling under current conditions worth the effort.
- Use an app
President Cyril Ramaphosa has asked all South Africans to use the Covid-19 tracing app – COVID Alert SA – a nifty app available on Apple and Android. Put simply, it uses Bluetooth technology to identify other phones with the app installed and alerts you (anonymously) if you’ve been in close contact with any other user who has tested positive for coronavirus in the past 14 days.
A long list of countries around the world are using similar apps, shining on a spotlight on using apps to navigate life during COVID-19. And there are many.
In terms of business travel, Flight Centre Business Travel experts will handle everything from booking your flights, hotels or ground transport to updating you on the weather at your destination so you know what to pack. Your travel expert will alert you to any flight changes. Now, in this ever-changing COVID world, is not the time to go at it alone.
FCBT has launched the Traveller Information Hub, which contains the latest air, hotel, and border updates from across the globe, an interactive map to help travellers assess their destination’s risk profile and chatbot assistance for any possible questions.