It’s hard to believe that just weeks ago the UK left the EU and Brexit was officially done. Events around the world have conspired to show that a few weeks is a long time in politics and, indeed, business.
I and all of the BTA’s member TMCs spent much of 2020, especially in the latter months, tracking any updates on Brexit negotiations to try to understand what it might mean for business travel in its myriad forms from the start of 2021.
With a deal done, attention turned to the 1,259 pages of negotiations. Just as our member TMCs could brief corporates with confidence on what it meant for their travelling employees, events conspired against us once more.
We in the UK, alongside much of Europe, are now in our third national lockdown. It is hard to keep positive as we’re confined to our homes watching the NHS battle to save lives and the community we know.
But, we have found small upsides for our sector. The time spent in lockdown is a silver lining, giving governments across Europe, the European travel management community and corporates the time to identify and settle any teething issues.
From increasing visa-free exemptions to getting frictionless visa approval, this time can be well spent ensuring our new queue at the border operates as smoothly as our previous place in the EU members’ line.
It is clear that there is still a frustrating lack of understanding of the breadth of business travel. Musicians travelling to perform, those wishing to train colleagues or charge for their coaching expertise will require a visa under the new regime.
We will campaign for a better understanding of business travel. Our sector is vital to the UK economy and can only contribute in full to UK plc if its scope and depth is better understood at the highest level of government.
As lockdown continues, further trade deals are being done outside of Europe and there is time to get more ink on the dotted line before international travel resumes with any ferocity. This will undoubtedly mean stronger relations beyond our European neighbours and hopefully an increase in long-haul travel into 2022 and beyond.
In the UK, we have a brave, innovative and talented TMC community that will rise to the challenges posed by Brexit and the devastation of Covid-19.
It is these companies that will get British business back on its feet and at the forefront of the global marketplace before the end of 2021.