BTA: 'Business travel has critical role in economic recovery'
07 May 2020by James Chapple
The Business Travel Association (BTA) has unveiled a five-point plan to "reignite" the business travel sector, which it says has a "critical role to play" in the post-coronavirus economic recovery.
Its proposals call for vital action on issues ranging from travel timeframes, to international co-operation and clarity, traveller safety and competitive pricing to rebuild the sector’s £220 billion annual contribution to UK GDP.
Chief executive Clive Wratten has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps and business secretary Alok Sharma to outline vital areas where the government must act or collaborate with the sector.
These include excluding "essential business travel" from the Foreign Office’s worldwide advisory against all non-essential travel; lobbying against any form of mandatory 14-day quarantine at one or both ends of a journey; and encouraging the insurance sector to ensure they offer adequate cover in the post-coronavirus world.
“The business travel sector has a critical role to play in our economic recovery, with the 6.5 million journeys it arranges in a typical year contributing £220 billion to UK GDP," said Wratten.
"We have a duty to enable British business to travel, trade and stimulate the UK economy, hence why we have developed this plan which we are calling upon the Government to support.
“The outcome of the Government’s review of lockdown this week may provide a glimpse of the steps necessary for economic recovery. Yet, the business community is fully aware that recovery will be a gradual process, and one which needs careful planning and for governments and industries to work closely together.”
The association added it recognised its five-point plan was ambitious, and would require all key stakeholders to play a role. By working steadfastly together, the BTA and many allied industries can help get British businesses on the flight to recovery," the BTA added.
Its five-point plan is as follows:
- Timeframe: Economies across the world are waiting for the first signs of an increase in demand for travel. Businesses are watching for borders, and the transport routes that link them, to open. In many countries, there is indefinite advice against “all but essential travel”. No one knows when travel can begin, and this missing date means consumers and businesses cannot be confident about future journeys. We need to move from a restriction of “all but essential” to “essential business travel permitted”.
- International co-operation and clarity: International coherence is needed about what behaviours will be expected of future business and leisure travellers. Inconsistencies or contradictory advice will cause chaos. For example, a 14-day quarantine required at both or even one end of a journey is a non-starter for global business executives. The BTA is arguing for a set of globally consistent guidelines on social distancing, the use of masks and other hygiene measures.
- Protected travellers: Businesses are fully aware of the importance of face-to-face interactions in striking new deals, establishing partnerships and securing new business. Yet, even when governments and travel providers give the green light, the need to ensure everyone stays safe will remain crucial. This requires insurance to cover employees when they travel and, in case of disruption or infection, that businesses’ actions won’t cause employee concern or dissent. The market needs to have these new policies readily and easily available.
- Safe services: Corporate travel managers will have enhanced responsibilities in the post-Covid world - ensuring all necessary precautions have been taken to limit their colleagues’ exposure to Covid-19. This means airlines, airports, train companies, car rental firms, hotels and other accommodation providers will need to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt, the steps they are taking to ensure cleanliness and social distancing. This could be overseen by travel associations such as the BTA across the globe with a recognisable marque provided to those who meet the criteria.
- Competitive pricing: Economies are being squeezed; companies are under pressure. Hence, travel budgets for the latter half of this year, and for 2021, will be challenging. Consequently, all elements of the business travel supply chain will need to ensure they remain highly competitive on pricing. Achieving this requires government intervention and financial commitment today to keep struggling businesses afloat – both in the business travel sector and amongst those who buy from it.