Posts

business travel

Is Omicron impacting business travel because of corporate and government restrictions?

Are you a business traveler? Omicron travel restrictions have put a damper on global business travel. New policies and ongoing developments are currently hindering a return to travel as we know it. 

However, the travel industry continues to reflect progress and optimism in its long-term outlook for 2022, according to the latest poll from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s largest business travel association and leader in education, research, networking, and advocacy.

“Here, at the start of a new year, the business travel industry and business travelers continue to face a dynamically changing landscape due to Omicron. One comment received from a poll respondent readily sums it up: ‘Uncertainty is a huge wet blanket on [business] travel,’” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA. 

“Despite the wave of Omicron and the ripple of challenges it has created, there are positive signs, and industry professionals continue to be optimistic for the long–term outlook of global business travel.”  

This most recent poll is the 25th in GBTA’s COVID-19 Recovery series, tracking the pulse of the global business travel industry during the pandemic. Below are a few highlights from the January poll

Omicron business travel poll highlights:

Optimism for the long haul – Three in four travel managers expect business travel volume at their company will be much (17%) or somewhat (58%) higher in 2022 than in 2021. Another one in ten (12%) expect business travel to remain about the same as 2021, but few (5%) expect it to be lower.  

Company travel cancellation decreases – Poll results show a decline in the percentage of companies that continue to suspend or cancel business travel. Sixty-eight percent of GBTA member companies have not yet opened international travel, compared to 79% in the October 2021 GBTA poll, and 29% have not opened domestic business travel versus 38% in October. 

Current business impacts – Six in ten (60%) suppliers/TMCs report their bookings from corporate clients decreased from the month prior. One in five (21%) characterize their bookings from corporate customers as having increased.

Comparing variants – When asked to compare Omicron and Delta variant concerns, 43% report they are either less worried about Omicron compared to Delta, and 45% are equally concerned.

Most significant barriers – When asked to name the single greatest barrier to business travel, 43% of survey respondents cited government policies that restrict travel or make it difficult (such as entry restrictions or mandatory quarantines). Travel managers based in the UK (66%) and Europe (62%) were more likely than those in North America (33%) to cite government policies as being the single greatest barrier to business travel. Conversely, North American travel managers (27%) were more likely than those in Europe (15%) to say company policies restricting employees from traveling are the biggest barrier. 

Getting back out there – Despite Omicron, most travel managers feel employees are willing to travel. Two in three (64%) feel their employees are “willing” or “very willing” to travel for business in the current environment. However, this number was down from 78% in the October GBTA poll. A majority of seven in ten (72%) GBTA members and stakeholders report they would definitely or probably travel for business. However, respondents based in Europe (49%) are more likely than those based in North America (35%) to report that their company has canceled all or most business trips.   

You might be interested: 6 Tips to spot counterfeit N95, KN95, and KN94

masks when shopping online

While we still have a long way to go before global business travel returns to its pre-COVID norms, this recent poll shows that many remain optimistic for the future of travel despite the challenges. 

omicron travel

What to expect from Omicron flight cancellations and new travel requirements

This holiday season, thousands of flight cancellations left travelers stranded in airports across the United States. While many cancellations were due to severe weather across various states, the spike in Omicron infections also played a part in disrupting holiday travel plans for thousands. 

Were you one of the many whose travel plans were impacted by omicron this holiday season?  

How the virus affected airline travel  

The Omicron variant began spreading rampantly over the Thanksgiving travel period and has since continued to spread rapidly. Omicron is reportedly more transmissible than other COVID-19 variants. 

In an article by Bloomberg, David Powell, physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association, estimated that “aircraft passengers are two to three times more likely to catch the virus during a flight since the emergence of Omicron.”

The higher chance of infection and rapid spread has led to new travel guidelines and unexpected flight cancellations. 

Since December 24, more than 15,000 U.S. flights have been canceled, The Washington Post reported. Additionally, some airlines have already preemptively canceled flights for the month of January. Last week, JetBlue announced it would cancel 1,280 flights through January 13. 

The rising infection rate does not only affect travelers but also airline workers, including air traffic controllers. Derek Dombrowski, a JetBlue spokesman, said the airline has seen a surge in sick calls because of the omicron variant. 

Additionally, Henry Harteveldt, an aviation analyst with Atmosphere Research Group, said in the same article, if Omicron infections continue to rage on, airlines may announce further cancellations for the remainder of January and possibly into February. 

omicron travel

Travel cancellations may continue throughout January and into February. (Travel photo created by freepik) 

Current Omicron travel restrictions and guidelines 

While many airlines continue to cancel flights, travel is still possible. If you’re planning to travel, here are the newest guidelines to follow to reduce your risk of infection. 

According to the CDC’s newest requirements

  • If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before you travel by air into the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.
  • Unvaccinated Americans and legal permanent residents are allowed to enter the country with a test taken within one day of departing for the United States. 
  • If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19

In addition to these requirements, foreign travelers arriving in the United States to be fully vaccinated. All children over the age of 2 flying into the United States must also show negative test results before traveling. 

Currently, there is no post-arrival testing or quarantine requirement. 

You might be interested: Why reaching “herd immunity” transcends the end of a pandemic 

Federal mask mandate is still in effect and has been extended through March 18. This mandate requires all travelers to wear masks in airports, on planes, and on other forms of public transportation including buses and trains. 

Travelers should continue to practice general COVID-19 safety guidelines, such as keeping adequate distance from others, avoiding tight crowds, keeping masks on indoors, and washing and sanitizing hands.

business travel

Is business travel as we know it dead? 

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted countless industries across the globe over the past year and a half. One industry that has faced tremendous change is the travel industry, which came to a screeching halt in 2020 as countries closed their borders to prevent the spread of the virus. Now, more than a year on, we are still seeing the pandemic’s effects on travel. While widespread vaccinations and the CDC’s updated guidelines regarding mask usage and travel for vaccinated individuals have encouraged some to take leisure trips this summer, the business travel industry is still a long way from recovery.  

Pre-pandemic, business travel accounted for $300 billion of the airline industry’s $800 billion revenues according to a Fortune article. At the start of 2021, the International Airline Transport Association (IATA) predicted that the industry would see positive recovery by the end of the year. Now, the IATA predicts business travel will not fully recover until 2024 to 2025

So what does this mean for the age of business travel? 

Has Zoom ended business travel as we know it? 

It’s no secret that companies are now far more hesitant to authorize business trips, considering the risks as infections continue to crop up and new variant strains spread globally. Over the past year, we all have had to adapt, including companies, who have adopted the use of video conferencing technology to facilitate communication between employees and hold meetings worldwide without the need to travel. In many ways, Zoom has transformed the way we do business. 

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

Business travel is also incredibly expensive. A Forbes article reported that one U.K. bank saved over $300 million in travel expenses over the past year. Many short trips, especially in Europe, between company offices, are now being replaced by train travel, while unnecessary trips are being replaced by virtual meetings. Until travel regulations fully lift and vaccination numbers rise, it does not make sense to take a trip halfway across the world for a company lunch or business meeting. 

You might be interested: What to know about the new COVID-19 Delta-variant infecting young and partially vaccinated people 

Resuming corporate travel protocols

Still, some road warriors express their dissatisfaction with Zoom meetings and long to resume standard business travel. 

In an article with NBC News, road warrior Stewart Mann said, “I went from flying probably 175 to 200 flights in a normal year to two flights last year after the pandemic hit. I’m a people person and I was depressed.”

For others, such as Fred Grubbe, president of the National Precast Concrete Association, Zoom just doesn’t cut it for his job. He said his workers prefer seeing the industrial mixers and heavy equipment they need to purchase in person. “With the restrictions of Zoom, you can’t see, touch or test the merchandise. This was huge,” he said to NBC News. “It’s very important because a lot of these relationships are personal. These are vendors our members have been working with for years,” he said.

Photo by Ross Parmly on Unsplash

Resuming business travel protocols post-Covid19 will be a long road and travel may look different moving forward. In the U.K., companies are looking to send employees on longer, less frequent trips. “Because of the restrictions, it makes more sense to group two trips into one and stay a bit longer and then hop between cities instead of several trips,” Avi Meir, CEO and co-founder of TravelPerk told Forbes

Other industry leaders report hearing talks of a new category of business travel emerging: ‘return to base’ meetings for digital nomads who have changed locations either temporarily or permanently during the pandemic, working remotely far from the company’s home office. These meetings would require digital nomads to travel back to the company’s home base for routine face-to-face meetings. This new category of business travel may help to revitalize the airline and travel industry as business travel slowly begins to resume post-pandemic.

covid-19 restrictions, mask rule

Is the end in sight? Mask rule lifts for the fully-vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions ease 

CDC announces lift on mask rules for vaccinated individuals and states being easing COVID-19 restrictions. 

Is the end in sight? 

In the past week, new developments regarding COVID-19 restrictions have had many thinking the end might be in sight. Will we really be back to “normal” this summer? 

Following Thursday’s announcement from the CDC which deemed that fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors, retailers across the country were quick to update their policies as the mask rule lifts. Companies such as Walmart, Target, Costco, and Starbucks now allow fully vaccinated customers to go mask-free. 

While these new guidelines bring us one step closer to the end of this pandemic, don’t go getting rid of your masks just yet. As per the guidelines, masks may still be required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance and are still required for all forms of transportation. 

Easing COVID-19 restrictions in NJ 

In addition to the easing mask rule, many states are now in the process of phasing out other COVID-19 restrictions. In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has signed Executive Order No. 239 which will implement the second phase of COVID-19 restriction easing. 

The easing includes the complete removal of the outdoor gathering limit; an increased indoor gathering limit; the complete removal of all percentage-based capacity limits for indoor businesses, outdoor businesses, and houses of worship; and an increased indoor large venue capacity. Additionally, the prohibition on indoor interstate youth sports competitions is being lifted.

These changes are set to take effect on Wednesday, May 19th. Additional details can be viewed at nj.gov

What can travelers expect?

As summer is on the horizon, more people are hoping to travel this year. With the newest guidelines, travel will certainly be possible for fully-vaccinated individuals as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift. 

The updated CDC guidelines for travelers now states that fully vaccinated domestic travelers need not get tested or self-quarantine before traveling. For fully vaccinated international travelers, COVID-19 testing is not necessary before leaving the U.S. unless required by the destination. Fully vaccinated travelers also do not need to self-quarantine in the United States following international travel, though international travelers arriving in the U.S. are still recommended to get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after travel regardless of vaccination status. 

However, you should still pack a mask! Because, while the CDC guidelines have lifted the mask rule for fully vaccinated individuals in many outdoor and indoor settings, masks are still required at all hubs of transportation including airports, buses, and train stations and may still be required depending on individuals local and state laws and private businesses. 

Parks and resorts like Disney and Universal are easing their mask restrictions for guests. Disney has announced that masks in outdoor areas will be optional, a relief for many travelers who struggle in the sweltering Florida heat while wearing a mask. Still, masks will be required for all indoor areas at the park, including theaters, attractions, and transportation. 

You might be interested: Mental Health Awareness Month 2021: Tools 2 Thrive

It is expected that many other vacation resorts, hotels, and tourist attractions will be updating their policies and guidelines in the coming weeks, so travelers should keep an eye out for updates as they prepare for their summer getaways!