In a promising revelation for the business travel industry, the head of a leading travel management company has observed that Australian SMEs – the backbone of the economy – have become more resilient and adaptable to snap restrictions, and surprising segments of the travel market have grown during lockdowns.
Tom Walley, General Manager at Corporate Traveller Australia, a global business travel solutions provider for SMEs and a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group, says the most surprising business travel trend he had observed amid border closures was the rise in intrastate business travel.
“Our booking data shows a significant spike in several intrastate flight bookings in the current lockdown as well as previous lockdowns,” Mr Walley said.
“Popular intrastate routes are Brisbane-Townsville, Brisbane-Mackay, Perth-Port Hedland and Perth-Karratha. I believe we will see a continued shift towards such travel routes as lockdowns continue.”
Mr Walley believed travel management companies had buffered the financial impact of travel restrictions on the business market and the travel industry alike.
Firstly, by providing much-needed travel advice, good travel management companies have helped essential business travel continue.
Secondly, by providing credit for any postponed travel, Corporate Traveller has ensured businesses avoided financial losses through their change in travel plans and the industry retains its revenue to enable it to keep operating.
Corporate Traveller says it has added several businesses to its customer base, supporting them through the period, including companies in the consulting, education, and hotel sectors.
“A travel management company can act as a vital support system during uncertain and challenging periods – both for businesses and the travel industry.
“The best ones provide up-to-the-minute advice around border rules and inflection controls,” Mr Walley said.
“Good operators are also crediting SMEs for cancelled flights, which can be applied to future flights. This protects both the industry and business sector while providing SMEs with specialist assistance and advice.
“While SMEs may need to postpone travel during restrictions and lockdowns, it won’t come at a cost to the business or industry and guarantees a spike in travel once lockdown ends.”
Mr Walley also observed that, while lockdowns had impacted several industries with traditionally high rates of travel, other surprising industries have emerged as the more frequent travellers.
“Several industries have been hit hard by restrictions, as we have seen an increase in travel postponements in the pharmaceutical, agriculture, retail, and insurance industries,” he said.
“However, air traffic during lockdowns has been replaced by industries that comprise essential workers – largely that have been able to travel during lockdown.
These include mining, medical, consultancy, manufacturing, construction, and engineering. Fortunately, these essential industries have opened up promising pockets of travel to help keep the business travel market operating.”
Mr Walley said border closures were having an extensive impact on SMEs but said the consensus was the desire to travel for business was still incredibly strong.
“Border closures can have an impact on sales, particularly where face-to-face meetings are needed for success. While some SMEs will be impacted during this time, others can take advantage of intrastate opportunities that have opened during lockdown,” he said.
“Ultimately, SMEs can expect a healthy return of this business function once lockdowns end and restrictions ease.”
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