For many businesses across the United Kingdom, commerce is a global activity, and with an international economy comes the challenge of doing business in other countries around the world.
Global travel is not without risk, and the coronavirus pandemic has shown that from a business perspective, organising travel and ensuring the safety of your staff has raised a whole new set of challenges and issues, many of which not all businesses were prepared for.
As global business travel starts to increase again, both employees and businesses are looking at ways that they can still travel internationally for business, while also maintaining safety and ensuring that any fast-moving changes and situations are managed easily and effectively without incurring the cost of having to rebook or cancel at short notice.
International business travel risks
When it comes to travelling internationally for business, just like with leisure travel, there is some potential risk. While the majority of business travel is carried out without a hitch, it's always a good idea to be prepared for the worst.
Some of the travel risks that travellers need to watch out for include staying safe in unfamiliar locations, keeping travel documents secure and maintaining health, which has become paramount in recent times.
Other risks that affect international business travel are last-minute changes to a person's schedule, such as cancellations and problems with bookings. Modern business travellers need to have a set of dynamic policies and tools that they can rely on to ensure that they can quickly adapt to any challenges that arise.
The good news is, there are plenty of things a business can do to insulate itself from issues with international travel and to help maintain the health and safety of their employees when travelling on behalf of their organisation.
One of the key improvements that a business can make to their business travel programme to help mitigate the majority of these potential travel problems is to use an effective travel policy.
How international business travellers can protect themselves
When travelling abroad, it's always a good idea to have a travel insurance policy to cover potential issues. As a business traveller, your personal travel insurance policy might cover you for business trips, but it's worth double-checking the policy with your provider prior to travel to avoid expensive mistakes. The company that you work for might also cover you under a business travel insurance scheme, but you should again check with your employer to find out what is and isn't covered. For example, it's never advisable to travel without a healthcare policy in case of illness or accident.
It's also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the location of the nearest UK embassies, so that if the worst happens and you lose important documents such as your passport, you'll know where to go to resolve the issue.
Although employees may take a pragmatic approach to travelling safety, employers have a duty of care to their personnel, which means that as a company, you might be looking at ways to keep your employees safe when they're travelling for your business. Ultimately, the best way that this can be achieved is by implementing a comprehensive travel risk management programme and by creating travel policies to maintain travel compliance and to ensure traveller safety.
The coronavirus pandemic's impact on global corporate travel
Over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge problems for international travel. Even at a domestic level, the road warriors who travel around visiting customers and businesses across the UK have found that region to region, UK travel still has its own unique restrictions and challenges to deal with.
For business travellers looking to travel to a foreign country, travel restrictions have been put in place in many locations to stop unnecessary travel. As the coronavirus vaccine roll-out continues, some of these travel restrictions have started to lift and travel plans are starting to be made again.
When it comes to international business travel, it's always a good idea to check the status of the country that you're going to, so you can ensure that you can travel by meeting any restrictions that are in place. The Egencia® Travel Advisor tool can quickly and easily identify issues in various locations around the world. In addition, you can find travel advisories for trips during COVID-19, including regulations for destinations and safety and health guidelines.
Benefits of international business travel
There has already been a reduction in business travel over the last few years and with targets set to reduce carbon emissions, many businesses are again looking at ways to reduce expensive (and emission-producing) business trips where possible. However, while some business meetings can be held via video conferencing services, it can be difficult or even impossible to carry out some business functions virtually. Often, you just have to be there!
There are a number of benefits of face-to-face meetings with colleagues or clients, and these include:
Being able to read body language. It can be difficult to pick up on non-verbal cues when speaking virtually. Humans have the ability to pick up on the subtle micro-expressions that people exhibit and adapt accordingly. This can help with competitiveness and closing deals that might otherwise be lost if these micro-expressions are not picked up on—which is hard to do virtually!
Building relationships. Many customers prefer face-to-face meetings as business is often about more than what you can offer as an organisation—it's also about relationships and finding people and corporate philosophies that are in synergy together. This is much easier to do in person, where small talk and more natural interactions can occur between people and teams.
Improve focus and concentration. When in a face-to-face meeting, you tend to have the full attention of the people that you are speaking to. When on a video call, you might find that people in the meeting aren't paying as much attention. They could be looking at social media or answering emails and not be fully engaged. In a face-to-face meeting, the likelihood of this happening is significantly reduced.
Easier to deal with different time zones. International business can take place across lots of different time zones. When trying to organise a call or video meeting, it can mean that someone, somewhere will have to accommodate an out-of-hours calendar invitation that might come at a very inconvenient time. For global organisations, this can mean that someone will have to take a call or meeting very early in the morning, or very late at night. This can result in reduced productivity and effectiveness if people are tired. It can also mean that people are keen to get the meeting over and done with faster, so meetings can be rushed.
A face-to-face meeting means that time zones won't matter, as everyone will be on the same schedule. Of course, an international flight can induce the dreaded jet lag, but this can be compensated for by proper scheduling of the flight and adequate rest.
For the individual business traveller, there are also benefits to be had from travelling internationally. For instance, it can make a job more interesting and engaging, as you get to explore and see new cultures and locations.
International travel can make a job more varied, as you'll often experience new things, new activities and meet new people. For many employees, this is the sort of thing that they look for in a role, and it can make for a happier employee. When the employee is restricted to a conference phone call or video meeting, often from their own homes or satellite office, their day-to-day work can become boring. International travel is a way of keeping employees engaged, happy and most importantly, efficient and effective.
The ability to use laptops and mobile computing devices when travelling and when using air travel means that there's a lot less employee downtime, so in many cases, an employee can still carry out work when on a long-haul flight.
International business travel management
Some companies leave it to the employees to make the international travel bookings, but this is not always the best use of their time—nor is it the most cost-effective way to travel.
That's why many companies use a travel management company such as Egencia to simplify and streamline business travel. Egencia helps businesses to manage travel risks and helps to ensure traveller well-being no matter where they travel to. Egencia's travel management solutions also help to support your business and plan for the future.
You can set up travel policies for your employees and stay in contact with your team globally to keep them informed and to ensure their safety while away on business using our travel risk management tools and services.
The future of international business travel
When it comes to international business trips, the future holds interesting challenges for travel managers. The coronavirus pandemic has shown that a dynamic approach to business travel is needed. This can be hard to maintain when managing your own business travel programme. This is why many companies turn to Egencia for help to support their business travel programme.
In addition to the need for more dynamic business travel solutions, many organisations are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and impact on the environment, and sectors such as business travel and especially international business travel are under the spotlight, as this is an area where savings can be made. This is where Egencia's travel policy solutions can help, by ensuring that only direct flights are booked and making sure that environmentally friendly travel options are used more often.
So, whether you're looking for dynamic business travel solutions, need help with setting up travel policies for your employees or want to reduce your carbon footprint, we can help you to fine-tune your international travel. Visit Egencia.co.uk to find out how we can make your global travel programmes run smoothly.