Press release: How to navigate the challenges of ‘essential’ travel


Multinationals need to work with travel management companies to navigate the changing landscape of travel during Covid-19.

Does your upcoming business trip really constitute ‘essential’ travel? With the announcement that South Africa moved to adjusted Alert Level 4 lockdown regulations, companies across Gauteng – and South Africa – this week found themselves examining their business travels once again.

From mining to pharmaceuticals, a great number of multinationals continue to send their teams through Africa and around the world. “Most of these companies’ travel arrangements constitute essential travel,” says Bonnie Smith, general manager at FCM South Africa.

“Covid-19 has just added an extra layer of complexity. Travel management companies (TMCs) need to think on their feet. You might have found a solution to a problem, but the next day – or the next hour – some government somewhere changes a rule, and you have to start over. A strong TMC partner will advise you and keep you up-to-date on a country’s changing processes and regulations – so that your team is in place, up and running, and productive as soon as possible.”

Smith explains that when navigating an ever-fluctuating landscape, it is essential that multinationals work with a TMC that moves with the times and that understands what essential travel means for you and your traveller.

Here’s what you should expect from your TMC:

1. Crisis know-how
At the moment, the world is fixated on COVID-19, but even without a global pandemic things can go wrong. “Covid aside,” says Bonnie, “In the event of an emergency affecting your travellers (from weather events impacting an individual to large-scale evacuations) a TMC should do all they can to minimise any distress and coordinate quickly to get them to safety”.

Of course, crisis management is just a small part of a larger commitment to duty of care. “To ensure your duty of care responsibilities are being fulfilled, FCM will enhance your pre-trip processes and put a plan in place for quickly and safely responding to anything affecting your people on the go,” says Bonnie.

2. Going beyond duty of care
Today trust, communication, and the flow of timely, accurate information between TMCs, travel managers and travellers is more important than ever before. For decision makers and travel managers alike, this means working closely with a TMC that can address traveller insecurity with confidence; manage the logistics of pre- and post-Covid travel; and understand (and detail) health and safety protocols at every point of the journey.  

3. Controlling costs
In a cost-conscious time, travel managers face significant pressure to cut costs. “Before you force your employees to use discount airlines, cheap hotels or tin cars, make sure you speak to your TMC,” says Bonnie. “ FCM has helped clients significantly reduce their travel liability simply by adopting a more holistic approach to travel management.”

Bonnie explains that if the data reveals that a client is using 500 different hotels in 50 cities, the FCM team would advise reducing this number to say 100, and negotiate a discount with the remaining hotels. “It is about creating efficiencies,” she says.

4. An agile, flexible approach to customer needs 
 Not only do travel managers need to know that their travellers are happy and safe, but they need a travel partner that can respond quickly to their needs – and to any unpredictable situation – with ease and flexibility.  

FCM’s new digital booking platform can be customised to your needs. You can gather (and analyse) data from travellers, including insights around likes and dislikes, queries, traveller friction, traveller preferences and travel behaviour – meaning you can design the best itinerary and book the best product to meet their needs. 

5. Real-time information
With an ever-fluctuation travel landscape, real-time information is a non-negotiable whether you’re travelling to Tokyo, New York or Durban. It takes patience and perseverance to figure out who’s allowed into which province or country (not to mention, how and when).

The Flight Centre Travel Group has updated its Travel News website with a colour-coded map that easily identifies inbound and outbound travel restrictions for international travel. Travellers are able to search destinations that are open for travel, as well as find out where Covid-19 testing sites are located and obtain information about quarantine rules on both inbound and outbound travel. Advanced discovery filters will also allow for easy identification of countries that have no restrictions or travel without quarantine.

5. Creative solutions
 They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and there is no doubt that Covid-19 is driving progress and innovation. We’re living in a world where contactless check-in, biometrics, virus screening and digital health passports will become the norm.

“Look for a TMC which is tackling the current chaos head on, exploring new ways of doing things and delivering creative and seamless solutions for companies who need to be back on the road,” Bonnie concludes.