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 international organizations cannot benefit from their worldwide scale to mitigate the effect: there is not a single region where it’s ‘business as usual’, every continent is impacted.
The travel industry will suffer severely from this crisis, that much is sure. Especially because we cannot expect the world to start traveling as we did before immediately after the virus has blown over. And yet… Yet we must already look forward to the day that life will resume as before. Companies will want to switch gears straightaway and reach cruising speed as soon as possible. For multinationals this implies; they will want to restart their worldwide activities and resume their global reach as before.
It goes without saying that this will also require a certain amount of (national and international) travel activity. In the current situation, many organizations are relying on video meetings and teleconferencing to replace the physical contact as much as possible. But, while doing so, they also experience the boundaries of digital contact.
That is why multinationals and other organizations with a worldwide customer base will require a fully functioning travel industry to meet their needs as soon as the markets start to recover. But you cannot expect travel organizations and the hospitality business to be fully available as usual when they have just experienced months of (almost) inactivity and nearly zero revenue.
Without government support, it will be impossible to survive if they don’t drastically cut costs. This would severely reduce their capability to help organizations realize their international ambitions. That is why all governments should seriously consider how they can keep the travel industry alive.
Most governments have indeed already included the travel industry in their funding initiatives. Mostly for two reasons. One, because tourism is an important industry for many countries, particularly the Mediterranean region: this will be an important factor in revitalizing these countries’ economy after the Corona catastrophe. Two, because we can expect people to long for a holiday abroad when they have been confined to their own backyard for so long. The travel and hospitality industry can thus play a role in lifting people’s spirit after this trying period.
But the importance of business travel should not be neglected when deciding on the amount of funding needed. That is why we launch a warm appeal to all governments: keep supporting the travel and hospitality industry overall and consider switching gears if needed. Only then will this industry be able to contribute to society as a whole, and play an important role in the economy’s revival as well.
If we manage to rise to the occasion, we could – literally and figuratively – initiate a flying start. Which would be very welcome, more than ever before.
Pascal Struyve – President BATM