Coronavirus hits business travel far beyond Chinese borders: what travel professionals should know and can do.

On Monday 3 February, the World Health Organization reported that more than 20.000 people are now contaminated with the Novel coronavirus. That’s 4 times more than a week ago, meaning the virus is spreading incredibly fast. Also yesterday, the first Coronavirus patient has been reported in Belgium. 28 countries have reported Coronavirus cases so far.

While the numbers might sure look frightening, a panic reaction is unnecessary. But as travel professionals, we do need to make sure we help our companies fulfill their duty of care, and need to protect our colleagues and business travelers. If you don’t have a policy in place for this kind of situations, that might seem a huge task.

Where should you begin?

 

Some basic tips and tricks include:

  • Follow the advice of your local government and/or organizations like the WHO. For Belgium, Foreign Affairs advises to avoid all non-essential travel to the contaminated Chinese Hubei region, and to the rest of China, with exception of Hongkong.
  • Make sure you have the latest details about the situation and its impact on travel, e.g. by regularly checking International SOS’ monitor tool
  • Alternatives for planned meetings include:
    • Delaying or relocating meetings
    • Video calls
    • Conference calls

Essential travel to the concerned region will require serious planning. Talk to your HR, legal department and management to set up assessment guidelines on whether a trip is essential or non-essential. Some large corporates even demand CEO approval before a traveler can leave for China or the affected region.

 

Good to know:

  • Many major global airlines have suspended flightsto and from mainland China, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, American Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, Qatar Airways and Emirates, among others.
  • Business travelers need to be briefed thoroughly on what to expect upon arrival, and most importantly: how to protect themselves from the virus. A recent article from The Guardian offers the following guidelines:
    • The virus most probably spreads via cough and sneeze droplets, directly or via contaminated surfaces. Important to note is that there is a chance that the virus spreads before people show symptoms.
    • Wash your hands with clean water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
    • In the affected area, avoid contact with animals and raw animal products.
    • Wear a face mask, but be aware that small particles can pass through the material of the mask.
    • Seek early medical help if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
    • If you return from an affected/infected area, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people for 2 weeks. If you show symptoms upon return, you will most probably be placed in quarantine.
  • As a travel professional, make sure you have all the details about your travelers exact whereabouts in China.
  • Make sure business travelers know how to react when faced with a crisis situation, and who to reach.
  • You’re not in this alone: your business travel agency can help with rebooking, refunds, and organizing essential travel to the area.

 

Interesting background information and useful links:

 

 

 

 

 

RELATED CONTENT

Event recap: How global can you go?

Business travel is one of the key requirements for any global business to perform optimally. Isn’t it ironic, then, that business travel itself is reluctant to consolidation on a global scale? Despite many efforts from all parties involved – hotels, airlines, travel agencies and trade associations – travel management on a global scale will not […]

Read more

Pascal Struyve: Protecting the travel industry is an absolute must!

Travel management usually requires a tight grip on everything: anticipating on all known problems and reacting as swiftly as possible to any unforeseen circumstance. But nobody could predict the current situation, and there’s not much we can do either. Never before has a crisis had such a worldwide impact as the corona virus today. Even […]

Read more

BATM and AirPlus International invite you to an interactive afternoon session about disruption in business travel.

Univ’AirPlus is back in Belgium for the 3rd time Univ’AirPlus is a yearly exclusive event for business insiders in the travel industry.

Read more