The COVID-19 outbreak will change a lot of things about day-to-day life. Thankfully for Executives and their Travelers, coronavirus will change business travel for the better.
The emergence of COVID-19 has changed the look and feel of travel. Those who have hit the road for work have found quite airport terminals, car rental lots loaded with options, as well as near-empty hotels. COVID-19 has created a short-term impact, undoubtedly, but coronavirus will change business travel over the long-term, too.
And, best of all, it will change business travel for the better.
If you’re a busy Executive who spends lots of time away from the office, or who runs a business that asks team members to travel frequently, here’s a look at the many ways COVID-19 is likely to change business travel. For more on COVID-19 and its impact on travel, visit our Restoring Business Traveler Confidence guide.
Airports and hotels have always been petri dishes where viruses live and spread. Now, in a post-COVD-19 world, airports, airlines, hotels and other organizations operating in the travel industry are going to place a much heavier emphasis on cleanliness and sanitation.
This is a good thing for stopping the spread of viruses, of course. Better sanitation means you’re less likely to pick up the flu or even a nasty cold next time you travel in winter. But it also means that you’ll enjoy cleaner confines wherever you go whenever you travel.
As part of the growing emphasis on sanitation, look for the proliferation of touchless technology. Until now, Travelers might have to touch a screen when checking a bag and touch a key card to enter a hotel room. When passing through security and customs, agents have handles passengers’ licenses, passports and boarding passes.
That’s likely to change.
Two technologies will make it possible for the travel experience to go virtually touchless. First, facial recognition software will make it possible to verify identities without passing documents back and forth. Security and privacy concerns are paramount before facial recognition technologies can spread. Second, mobile devices make it possible for Travelers to do almost anything without touching a screen or key card.
For example, many hotels already off virtual keys. Travelers get their virtual key on a mobile device, and they use it to gain entry to a room — rather than using an old-school key or key card. Look for similar technology to emerge at airports and on airlines.
Security and boarding lines at airports bunch Travelers together for long periods of time. Not only are these lines boring and time-consuming, they are also perfect for the spread of germs and viruses.
COVID-19 may inspire airports and airlines to reevaluate the way they handle security and boarding lines. Airports might institute reservation systems for security checks to replace the security lines that snake through terminals. And new approaches to boarding lines are likely to replace the current approach that includes a crowd lingering around a jetway until passengers’ group numbers are called.
Visit most large airports, and you’re likely to see gates packed with people. Seating is limited and packed tightly together. Just as “social distancing” has entered the lexicon as one of 2020’s most-used phrases, the concept of distancing will become more prominent at airports.
In the future, terminals will be more spacious, allowing Travelers to remain a safe distance from each other. More spacious terminals will mean that terminals are also more relaxing, taking some of the stress out of the travel experience. This change may take longer to implement, but the distancing philosophy will someday be fully embedded at airports and other travel venues.
Traveler-Focused Loyalty Programs
Before COVID-19, travel vendors had steadily made their loyalty programs less and less Traveler-friendly. It became harder and harder to earn status, and points and miles became more and more difficult to redeem and use. That’s going to change as the travel industry recovers from the coronavirus outbreak.
In fact, airlines and hotels are already making loyalty program changes that are designed to build back their brand awareness and to deepen connections with their regular Travelers. Loyalty programs will likely tilt back in favor of vendors at some point. But, for now, Travelers should enjoy loyalty programs and how they once again cater to the customer.
Enjoy Travel With JTB Business Travel
Business travel can be stressful and challenging. At JTB Business Travel, we use a common-sense approach to support companies and their Travelers. We can help Travelers find the best, most convenient itineraries to meet their needs, and we can help decision-making Executives get the return they want for their investment in business travel.
Contact us today about how JTB Business Travel can support your business and its Travelers.