Travel Management’s Role in the Era of COVID

In December of 2019, after reports of the first COVID-19 case, no one could anticipate the lasting effects the virus would have on nearly every aspect of life. One unexpected casualty has been the travel industry.

Depending on who you ask, travel is either a luxury or a necessity. However, for those in corporate travel – especially in the mining industry – travel is non-negotiable. Without travel, the mining industry comes to a grinding halt, as critical skills and expertise are trapped in nations without the natural resources to utilize them.

Nowhere has this been more evident than professional travel to Africa.

Over the last year and a half, travel to – and from the region – has changed tremendously. Even as recent positive outcomes – like vaccinations – have been developed, the lasting impact of COVID on travel still affects nearly every mining professional.

The Unexpected Set-backs of Travelling During the Ongoing Pandemic

In March 2021, even though it had been a year since the start of the pandemic, travel was still considerably hampered. Our experience as a travel management agency meant we had a unique perspective of the true nature of the damage.

One instance that springs to mind: an Australian mining professional’s attempt to return from Nigeria after being contracted there for 3-months.

This traveller had been placed in a unique predicament as he could only organize a trip to Australia for the following month, April. He would have to reside in a foreign country – his choice being South Africa – for one month while he awaited a flight.

This highlights the exact way the travel industry has changed. Although many business tourism spaces have begun operating in some capacity, restrictions within each country have significantly limited international flights.

Australia, for example, has been able to curb the spread of COVID in the country by placing stringent measures on travel that had the unintended consequences of delaying one passenger’s trip by a month. Other countries have mimicked this.

Therefore, as a travel management company, we have to navigate these region-specific restrictions without hindering the plans of our clients, something ordinary business travellers cannot do by themselves.

The Benefit of Relying on Travel Management During This New Age of Travel

Many travellers are relying on vaccine programs to return the world of travel to its pre-COVID state. Unfortunately, because most of the world is vaccinating their populations at an unequal pace, and new outbreaks continue to emerge, this is unlikely.

This ‘new age’ of travel means business travellers will have to rely on travel management companies for quite some time. Not out of convenience, but necessity.

However, by relying on the support of a travel manager, industries will also resume work, as usual, sooner than anticipated. Here’s why:

Leverage an Existing Network

Because of regional regulations, airlines can no longer be generous about their seating. As a regular business traveller, your only resource is to predict your travel needs months before and book flights hoping that they remain available when you need them.

However, by relying on the help of a travel agency, you access that agency’s existing network of companies that have available seats. As travel managers, we have built up these relationships with airlines and companies over years. We can now employ those relationships to negotiate and expedite your flights.

Maximise your Resources

You have a travel budget, a time frame, and a destination. Your understanding of travel may be that all you need to do now is book a flight and a hotel. But, the process now involves getting tested, searching through limited flight availability, and navigating your country and your destination country’s travel restrictions. Relying on a travel agency to organize and navigate your travel arrangements ensures you don’t need to worry about the process or waste vital resources.

For our Australian traveller, he had already booked a one-month stay at a South African BnB in anticipation of the delay. However, we could use our resources and expertise to get a refund and expedite the process. Had he not relied on our expertise, he would have been out of pocket thousands of dollars and one month.

Support Business Objectives

With the recent changes to the travel landscape, the purpose of travel management is concentrated on enabling travellers to conduct critical business. Navigating this new age of travel, travel management realizes its function in supporting business objectives and maintaining the wellbeing of professionals who use the service.

As is the case for our Australian traveller, we could support his objectives and improve his overall sense of wellbeing by enabling him to return home after a few days, instead of the one month flight he could acquire. We did this by taking on a supporting role and being available round-the-clock to answer any queries or manage any of his other needs.

Cases like these are no longer extremes. Instead, they occur with increased frequency, making it essential that we understand our role in helping mining professionals work without interruptions and delays.

We have seen a complete shift in travel. The goal with travel is now to support both economic necessities but also protect nations from having deadly outbreaks. Unfortunately, these two cannot operate in symbiosis without one being affected. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, travel management will be about navigating this new era while meeting our customers existing expectations.

Contact us on bookings@approvertravel.com  or +27 82 510 1768 for assistance.