For the first time in history borders have been closed to international travel in all destinations worldwide. According to new research undertaken by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), all global destinations (a total of 217) continue to have restrictions in place and 76% of them (156 countries) have completely closed their borders to international travel with passengers not permitted to enter at all. Exemptions exist only for returning nationals and residents, diplomats and for any essential reason.
Meanwhile, a small percentage (only 10 countries) have partially closed their borders which has meant a severe restriction in the number of entry points.
The various regions of the world have differing amounts of total closure, as follows: 83% of destinations in Europe; 80% of destinations in the Americas; 70% of destinations in Asia and the Pacific; 62% of destinations in the Middle East; and 57% of destinations in Africa.
All these travel restrictions not only apply to tourism but all international travel which has put a complete stop on all corporate travel for the time being. The use of Zoom and other web based video communications systems have become the means for most companies to conduct business with audio conferencing, chat and webinars.
It is widely believed that nothing will ever replace face to face discussions and as countries start to open their borders, businesses will need to start to evaluating whether the new normal of video conferences is good enough or whether the need for personal travel will be too strong.
As previously reported by The Blue Swan Daily, a poll of over 100 corporate travel managers who work for BCD Travel clients found over two in five said they expected business travel to return to former levels this year, with just 10% predicting it would not fully return until at least 2022, while 3% predicted it would never return to former levels.
As borders start to open up, a number of destinations are proposing the implementation of quarantine requirements, or 14 days of self isolation, which would totally kill off any thoughts of corporate travel. Other countries are banning passengers from specific countries of origin or those that have transited certain other countries.
Medical certificates are one way through although at the moment there is no consensus as to how that could be achieved or guaranteed. Vienna Airport, the main gateway into Austria, is even offering passengers the opportunity to take a Covid-19 test at departure and on arrival to allow them to avoid 14 day quarantine requirements.
The PCR tests – which verify the existence of a Covid-19 infection using a specimen from a throat or nasal swab – are provided by the Austrian company Confidence DNA Analysen and the samples are examined in a laboratory on the airport’s ground floor.
The test results are available in around three hours, but come at a cost of EUR190. For business travellers it would certainly be a small price to pay to avoid a fortnight quarantine, and could actually become a requirement to meet corporate policies and travel insurance obligations. The problem is that most countries require a certificate proving a negative test is less than four days old so multiple tests would be required for frequent travellers.
According to the WTO research, destination-specific travel restrictions are used only by a few destinations, most of them in Asia and the Pacific and with no destination in Europe currently using this measure. Measures such as suspension of visa, requesting medical certificates or self-quarantining is most widely being used in Asia Pacific (12%) although this measure is being less used by other regions (5-7%).
At a recent CAPA Corporate Travel Community (CTC) Masterclass, Eric Bailey, global director travel, venue source and payment at Microsoft, said of future corporate travel: “Everything will be much more controlled,” and that will make every trip “more valuable”. “People are going to want to be safer and know everything about their trip… It’s not about hoping a trip is going to go well, but knowing a trip is going to go well”.
While many companies will adapt to the new technology, it’s readily agreed that reading people’s facial expressions on video link is not nearly as easy as when face to face in person. It may well be a hybrid of some video conferencing and some face to face. As Eric Bailey put it, “you will see people skip a trip here and there. They will only want to get on the real valuable trips”.
Airlines will be doing all they can to entice corporate travellers back into the sky. As Peter Harbison, chairman emeritus of CAPA – Centre for Aviation says, there now needs to be “considerable standardisation of product and procedure,” especially when airlines with their smaller networks seek to transfer passengers.
“That needs to come not just from airlines, but from governments who have a massively important role to play in agreeing some standards that are generally acceptable – travellers and corporate buyers need to have some input to ensure they are acceptable,” he adds.