Challenges remain for business travel post-pandemic


THE question of whether business travel remains viable is inevitable, as employees are getting accustomed to working at home culture due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Digi-X business development Azwar Osman said although the new norm calls for a more digitally-active work environment, there are pros and cons that travelling for work can solve.

“Previously, one or two face-to-face meetings can help seal the deal between business and clients, but now — due to the need to host meetings online — we need to get the message across with four to five calls, just to get an understanding of what they need and what we can provide.

“This means things that used to be agreed on faster and earlier are now being slowed down versus when we could travel and meet up with clients,” he said at the webinar titled “Business Travel: Why? How?” yesterday.

He said despite the practicality of working at home, distractions are abundant while business has to go on as usual.

“There are many distractions, such as neighbours, perhaps children for those with families and house chores. We have to accommodate for these now while working at home.

“Because of this, negotiations and making deals with clients are taking longer than usual,” he said.

He said moving forward from the culture, business travelling may persist but it may also stay minimal.

“More safety precautions will be taken into account for business travels following this,” he said.

To counter and ensure a seamless shift to making business travelling safer, TruTrip Sdn Bhd positions itself as a business travel management tool which allows companies to book, manage and approve their business travels.

Singapore-based business-to-business trip service TruTrip founder Pinky Tham said travel has changed so much since the pandemic, and it has been the question on everyone’s mind.

“It has never been so complicated before, when we used to know our preferred flight time and airline.

Due to this, we are all entering a conflicted recovery stage — where we’re wondering how safe is it to travel for business and how to work around the necessary precautions,” she said.

She said despite the importance of travel, the barriers to overcome in order to start travelling includes health and safety, financial risk and cost management.

“We are definitely in a new normal and a new era of travel, and we have learned from many small and medium enterprises that travel is critical for them.

“But over 40% said they are underprepared for future travel plans,” she said.

However, despite the wariness among business owners, over six million Malaysians have travelled since April, with a 25% increase of travellers in the country from July to September 2020 in domestic destinations.

According to TruTrip, domestic travel in Malaysia has been consistent in its recovery until the recent lockdown, whereas internationally, the UK and New York City started recovery as Malaysia flatlined due to a more cautious approach.

Azwar said among the precautions employers can take to ensure safety and health during business travels include to offer health check-ups.

“Monthly health checks would be beneficial before allowing employees to travel to have a peace of mind.

“Similarly, the MySejahtera app can also let the user know whether the location they are travelling to is safe or not, thus mentally preparing them for when they travel for work,” he said.