How to...

Prepare for a travel restart

Amid the global pandemic, business intelligence giant S&P Global needed to be ready for the return to travel as itsoffices started to re-open in Asia. It chose to adopt the ‘Permissible Travel Framework’, developed by corporate travel consultants Festive Road.

STEP 1: THE BACKGROUND: S&P Global has 20,000 employees, with 8,000 travelling for business. Its travel spend in 2019 was $60 million and it has an annual total travel-related spend, including dining and other expenses, of approximately $100 million. Around 80% of its travel is domestic within each region and half of all travel is for internal meetings. Its most-flown routes include New York/London and NY/Singapore and, before the crisis, there was also significant traffic to and from back office operations in India, Pakistan and the Philippines. When the outbreak hit, travel was suspended in line with the rest of the world, starting in China.

STEP 2: THE PROCESS: In the early days of lockdown, when industry webinars and discussions began to take place, S&P’s Director Global Travel, Ann Dery, became aware of the Permissible Travel Framework, an Excel document put together by Festive Road and based on its existing Managed Travel Model. It’s now being used by more than 7,000 companies and is still being fine-tuned, in collaboration with clients. It is built around the following principle: company readiness + employee readiness + government permission = permissible travel. “The pandemic was so new and people were struggling to get their heads around it and I admit I first looked at the framework and thought ‘wow, this is really complicated’," Dery explains. But when it became clear that domestic travel was eginning to start up again in China, Dery went back to the framework and knew it should form the foundation of the company’s return to travel. She ran it by her management within S&P’s Global Business Services, and was allowed to form a Return to Travel Taskforce, which included colleagues from Travel Procurement, Security and the People team, who also saw its potential. Meanwhile, the APAC Regional leadership, in conjunction with the regional Security Officer, had been organically and intuitively developing their own return to travel framework, with similar checks and balances, so the “two work-streams were blended together”.

STEP 3: THE RESULT: An Interim Business Travel Pre-trip Request Form pushes travellers, via hyperlinks, to various information sources and requires digital authorisation at each stage. The framework helps define essential travel and contains vital questions and checklists. “It’s not a tedious process, but requires a lot of forethought and asks travellers whether this trip really is necessary and meets the company’s new definition of permissible travel." It hasn’t yet been shared with all travellers. “We’re being very cautious about communicating the framework so we don’t give our travellers false hope, or concern, that they will be travelling again soon.” Outside of Asia, S&P’s offices remain closed so there is still no travel, but it is now prepared for the restart. “Apparently we’re ahead of the pack,” says Dery. “A lot of companies are talking about it, but not many are at the stage we’re at.”

STEP 4: THE CHALLENGE: The main challenge now, says Dery, is educating travellers, who will have to do their homework for each trip, know biosafety requirements, understand suppliers' Covid-19 protocols, and check information from official bodies like IATA, WHO and the CDC. "It’s not a case of asking travellers to waive their rights – travel is completely voluntary and no-one is being forced to travel - but they will now have to take ownership and responsibility for travelling within the current environment. We will have to relay all of that without instilling fear, or unnecessary concern."

(Published September 2020)