More than half of Canadian business travellers say they have positive feelings about travelling again once COVID restrictions are lifted, provided there is effective tech in place to help them travel for business safely. And most Canadians expect mobile check-ins to perform a lot of the leg work.

Over 50 per cent of Canadian business travellers, in a recent survey of 200 Canadian business travellers by SAP Concur, say that mobile check-ins will be the most important mobile app features when travel resumes. For the same question, only 41 per cent of respondents globally felt the same way.

When travel starts, 24 per cent Canadian business travellers say they’re most likely to start their booking with online travel agencies, while 22 per cent say they will book directly with an airline or hotel website/app. Comparatively, only 18 per cent expect to first use their company’s travel booking tool or go to their company’s travel agency, and 17 per cent expect to use internet search engines.

Most of those surveyed said that they expect their company to experience negative outcomes due to travel restrictions around COVID-19, with 51 per cent noting it will result in a reduced number of deals or contracts signed that require in-person interactions and 44 per cent saying it would lead to declines in new business wins that require in-person meetings.

“Our research shows that travel will continue to play an irreplaceable role in meeting critical business demands. However, travellers’ health and safety, and a new era of trip preparation and policies, will be front and centre as travel resumes. Emerging expectations around personal and community health and safety will mean a new era of decisions, processes, and innovations across the travel industry,” Victoria DeBoon, director of sales at SAP Concur Canada, told IT World Canada in an interview. 

The majority of business travellers around the world have usually been most stressed before and after their trip. But, there has been a shift as a result of the pandemic. DeBoon says the trip itself is now the most stressful stage of travel. The situation is the same for most companies as they face more pressure than ever to ensure safety for their employees while embarking on business trips. As a result, nearly all Canadian business travellers (95 per cent) say they expect a “new normal” with changing norms and practices.

Mental health and safety

Talking about health and safety, a third of Canadian business travellers say they hold themselves most accountable for protecting their own well-being once business travel resumes, but nearly 20 per cent, compared to 12 per cent globally, say transportation providers will be most accountable, as well as their employer (14 per cent), the government (13 per cent), or their company’s travel management company (10 per cent). 

Although it’s difficult to predict what the future of business travel will look like, one thing that’s certain is the key role technology will play in easing the concerns of business travellers, says DeBoon. 

“At this moment, companies should listen to employees and invest in solutions their travellers want, including measures they see as necessary when travel resumes, such as improved traveller safety information, requiring pre-trip approval, or greater ability to change travel plans quickly. From mobile check in to digital communication on travel updates, technology enablement is going to play a critical role in helping business travellers feel safe,” she said.

It’s essential that businesses implement and enforce policies that ensure traveller safety, health and security, she added.

“A duty of care action plan is important to help companies mitigate challenges in locating and communicating with travelling employees when an emergency arises. Especially with many employees now using a variety of self-serve booking apps and websites, it becomes increasingly difficult for corporate travel managers and HR teams to access accurate, timely traveller location and activity data. When an employee is in the middle of a crisis, it’s important to have visibility and be able to adapt to changes in data instantly to locate and support employees,” DeBoon said.

Concur Locate is one tool that enables companies to quickly locate and communicate with employees—no matter where they are or how they booked their travel—even when travel plans change, according to SAP Concur. 

Other mobile app features they say will be important when business travel resumes include traveller safety information, the ability to book air travel, and the ability to view as well as manage their trip itinerary. Also, nearly 30 per cent Canadian business travellers want automatic notifications for out-of-policy bookings or expenses, and most are looking to a broad swath of on-demand functions, including loyalty programs (30 per cent, compared to 20 per cent globally), the ability to automatically create and submit an expense report (21 per cent), and even the ability to track and offset their carbon footprint (12 per cent).

The survey features input from 200 business travellers from Canada who travel for work more than three times a year.

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