While we all wait to get ‘back to normal’, ABTA’s webinar on 30 April asked some all important questions of our Travel Buyer panel about how they expect their corporate travel programmes to be forever changed post Covid-19.

Coupled with a recent ABTA Buyers survey, our panel consisting of Adaeze Okonkwo, Head: Travel & Protocol for Access Bank PLC Nigeria, Corrie Fourie, Executive PA and Travel Manager at Fresenius Kabi South Africa, Phale Naake, Director: Strategic Procurement: Government Travel Services for National Treasury and Wendy Acker, Travel Coordinator at The Foschini Group shared the following insights.

1. Start thinking about a project plan for when travel restrictions lift
ABTA’s recent Buyers Survey shows that only 32% of Buyers are working on a project plan for when restrictions are lifted, with 68% either not yet or only partially working on a plan.  While we all attempt to stay active and relevant to our organisations, it is critical for Travel Buyers to get involved in developing a post lock-down project plan.

Items will include getting on top of what travel ‘credits’ you have in refunds and vouchers (to use when travel commences); creating a new, more stringent approval process to ensure only the most critical of critical trips are taken; helping to identify the first business-critical staff to start travelling and projects needing attention; speaking to staff about how they feel about travelling again – if there is resistance, this needs to be dealt with as soon as possible; re-working amended budgets; staying on top of your supply chain and ensuring you know which suppliers will start operating again; finalising arrangements to become ‘screen ready’ to be able to scan temperatures and provide additional hygiene products for when staff return back to the office and so on.

ABTA will soon be making a resource available to members to cover these and other points to include in their project plans.

2. Travel WILL be reduced across the board
Our panel estimated a 40-60% reduction in travel across the board, lasting at least 6 to 12 months after the travel ban is lifted.  To a large extent, internal company travel restrictions will first be lifted domestically, then regionally, then internationally, with some companies having an extended ban into high risk countries (eg. China, Italy, Spain, UK and USA).

Based on our discussions, and ABTA’s survey, 60% expect travel to get back to a semi-normal state within 6 to 12 months, with 20% saying it will take longer – possibly 18 to 24 months.  Many remain unsure.

Video conferencing is certainly set to stay with over 80% of respondents citing this as the main reason why travel volumes will continue to stay reduced, even once all bans are lifted.

3. Relationships and contracts will stay strong
Some further good news coming from both ABTA’s survey and Buyer views on the webinar is that Suppliers and TMC’s will still be supported.  Although travel volumes will be greatly reduced and we are hearing Buyers globally discussing the potential to remove the TMC and handle reduced bookings internally, the overwhelming view is that TMC’s and their expertise are needed now more than ever.  80% of survey respondents confirmed that they will continue to maintain their TMC relationships.

Similarly, Buyers for the most part will not be doing away with their corporate agreements with suppliers, though they will also take advantage of cheaper dynamic deals where they can get them.  Some concern was expressed at the potential ‘blanket increase’ of 25% on ticket prices, which adjusted travel budgets would need to take into consideration should this transpire.

4. Safe is sexy
Suppliers now need to start selling their most important feature – their safety innovations.  Once airlines, hotels and other travel suppliers get back to business, their safety measures will play a vital role to keep them competitive and the more they can engage with clients about what that looks like, the better.

Social distancing will still be required which leads to questions about distancing at airports, in airplanes, in hotel lobbies and restaurants, and anywhere else where the previous norm was to be comfortable in queues and heavy traffic areas.  Suppliers also need to become ‘scan-ready’ and finalise arrangements for being able to temperature check travellers, provide hygiene products where needed, develop policies about the wearing of masks and gloves etc. Suppliers are taking great strides to do as much as possible to keep travellers safe and healthy, and this needs to be shared with clients continuously.


If you missed this webinar, you are able to listen to it online HERE.
This resource is free of charge for ABTA Members and non Members pay R 250 ($15).


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