Experts believe sustainable business travel programmes are set to boom post-Covid-19 as travel managers rally behind new opportunities to fast-track their climate compliance.
In a survey, the Climate Action for Corporate Travel Urgent Sustainability Summit (CACTUS) found 93% strongly agree or agree that Covid-19 has given travel managers an opportunity to fast track the creation of “a more sustainable and viable future for the planet”.
A 2020 survey of the buyer members of the Institute of Travel Management (ITM) found 56% believed the focus on sustainable business travel would remain the same when things pick up after Covid, while a further 40% believed it would become of even higher importance.
Bonnie Smith of FCM Travel Solutions, believes traveller safety is a key component of any changes to travel policies going forward. “This could also be an opportunity for travel managers to hit the reset button on their programmes’ sustainability efforts. We have a unique opportunity to make climate action the focus of our post-Covid-19 recovery efforts. It is important that we act now.”
She said for many South African businesses, the challenge of implementing a sustainable travel programme used to loom large.
“Businesses now have a practical understanding of where and how they can cut down on unrequired travel. This frees them up to ensure that their essential travel is environmentally conscious without concerns about breaking the bank. The whole system will be better streamlined.”
Pierre-Emanuel Tetaz, a manager at a company which provides travel and expense management services, SAP Concur, said during a recent webinar on the company’s 2020 Corporate Travel Sustainability Index: “We have to acknowledge the fact that the economic situation is not necessarily great, and many organisations are suffering, so overall travel spend will be under pressure. This could mean that people will travel less but might be willing to spend a bit more per trip – unit cost may change slightly and part of that will be because people are going to want to make more sustainable choices.”
Research data backs this claim as almost all the companies surveyed by SAP Concur (98%) are prepared to allocate additional spend on sustainability programmes over and above the current travel management budget.
However, market predictions indicate that without focused intervention, business travel emissions will return to previous levels. Hospitality giant Accor, for example, recently published a study showing business travel would return to pre-Covid levels within six months, led by domestic travel.
Smith urged buyers not to let the unique sustainability opportunity offered by the pandemic slip through their fingers. “Integrating sustainable business practices into your travel programme can be seamless if you have the right information. Multiple airlines, hotels and car hire companies have made huge changes to their business models to ensure that travel is more sustainable and there is no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of this.”