Business Travel in a COVID-19 World

This Post Was Originally Published on the Plus Travel Group Blog on August 4, 2020 by Mark Crone

Business Travel in a COVID-19 World is different. Nothing seems normal in a pandemic and travel is no exception. As the economy reopens and we all move forward, it’s time to travel again. Business needs to travel for a variety of reasons including company growth, customer visits, internal company meetings, etc. I flew with Air Canada from Toronto to Montreal on July 16, 2020. Here is what a business trip looks like right now:

Business Travel in a COVID-19 World – Toronto Pearson Airport

Boarding the plane in a Covid -19 world

There are more people travelling than you might think. On the day I flew, there were 15,000 passengers moving through Toronto Pearson. Airport parking was busy with 2 floors full and several other floors with minimal space. As you walk into the terminal, you will need your mask on. You’ll also be stopped by security to confirm that you are a traveller (only travellers are allowed into the airport). The terminal does not look busy, but travel activity is growing week by week. Toronto Pearson has initiated a “Healthy Airport” program in response to COVID-19. This includes anti-bacterial fogging, UV cleaning technology, enhanced sanitization, and physical distancing measures. As you make your way to check-in, you will notice these measures throughout the terminal.

Check-in and Security

Air Canada Touch Free Check-In Kiosk

Advanced check-in is now more important than ever. If your flight is busy (70% or more), and you prefer to travel on a different flight, you will have an option to change to another flight operating within three days or to the next available flight without additional fees. Touch-free check-in at select airports includes seamless TouchFree Bag Check service. During mobile check-in, select the number of checked bags, print your bag tags from dedicated kiosks, and then drop off your bags at the TouchFree Bag Drop.

You’ll see physical distancing measures in place as you line up for security, with decals every two metres on the floor. As you walk up to security, your temperature will be taken by airport personnel. You now scan your own boarding pass at security and proceed through inspection. Hand sanitization stations are available at security screening and throughout the airport.

Airport Lounges and Pre-Flight

Social Distancing  seats near a gate at Toronto Pearson Airport

If you have access to an Air Canada airport lounge, you’ll be happy to know that they have re-opened. Seating has been readjusted to provide social distancing. Food comes in a snack box and drinks are handed to you by an attendant. There are also washroom attendants. As you make your way to your departure gate, some restaurants are open and seating at the gate has been adjusted with social distancing. There are more people travelling than you would expect but there is still plenty of room for physical distancing throughout the terminal.

Boarding and On the Plane

Selfie of the Author wearing a mask while flying on the plane

The number of boarding zones has increased (8 for my flight). There are fewer travellers in each zone with boarding by window then aisle and from back to front of the plane. At boarding, you’ll show your ID and boarding pass. But you’ll be asked to pull back your mask so that the agent can see your face vs. the picture on your ID. As you board the plane, you’ll be handed the Clean Care Kit (if you are flying Air Canada). The Kit includes a mask, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, water bottle, a headset, and a snack. Seating is spaced out as much as possible. Given current travel activity, it would be odd to have someone beside you. Announcements on board will always remind you of COVID protocols including wearing your mask over your mouth and nose (unless eating or drinking).

Air Canada Clean Care Kit

At Montreal Airport

There are 3 security entrance points at Montreal Airport. As you enter, you will be required to sanitize your hands and have your temperature taken by infrared thermometer. Virtually every airport, including Montreal, follows updated COVID specific health and safety protocols. You are encouraged to use mobile check-in; you must wear a face mask; physical distancing measures are in place; and enhanced sanitization processes are ongoing.

Business Travel in a COVID-19 World – Summary

With the many biosafety protocols and procedures in place for travel, it quite frankly feels safer to travel than to buy groceries. It felt great to travel again as it seemed to for everyone else on the plane. The travel industry has spent considerable time and effort in developing new procedures to build trust and confidence- and it works! It really is time to travel. And business travel needs to happen to facilitate economic growth. Updated travel guidelines and procedures are the new norm and we are all ready for takeoff!

Flying on an airplane

Feel free to reach out for more information and to inquire about an updated travel program with Plus Travel Group. 

Check out my previous post for more information – Is it the right time to travel again?

Impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS written over a busy street in NYC

If there is one thing that we can say about COVID-19, it’s that it is going to have a major impact on our society. From the economic repercussions of people being limited to work from home to the social impact of physical distancing and, in some cases, mandatory quarantine. But, as one of the major aspects of coronavirus is the outright ban on travel, we are going to take a more in-depth look into the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry.

How to consider the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry?

Let’s first take into account the travel measures that various governments have instated in order to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic. As of now, international travel is still practically non-existent. The little international travel that is happening is for shipping medical supplies and for people returning home after living abroad. Intrastate travel is also brought down to a minimum. People can travel between cities, but they have a limited time window for doing so. Alongside that, most countries still advocate for social distancing and for staying at home. Overall travel, and the travel industry with it, has been brought down to a record low.

Lufthansa airplane sitting on an airport.

Since this scenario has been going on for a while, multimode countries are considering lifting certain travel bans. This is due to the slowing down of coronavirus, and due to a large number of people not being able to work for over a month. So, while these measures should boost the travel industry a bit, at least at the local level, we shouldn’t put to much hope into them. If we are not careful, COVID-19 can come back with a vengeance. And if this happens, all of the lockdown measures for travel will be reinstated.

Impact on tourism

The impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry is currently quite grim. Most of the summer vacation reservations have either been canceled or rescheduled for late summer or early fall. Empty beaches, vacant hotels, and barren tourist areas will be a trend in the summer of 2020. Therefore, during the months that are usually busiest, people working in tourism will see little to no income. Certain countries have some tourist allure during winter months, but most are reliant on summer tourism. This can be a big problem as certain countries depend on international tourism for a large part of their yearly income. Some of them are:

  • Spain
  • Thailand
  • Portugal
  • Greece
  • The Maldives
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados

These counties have a significant percentage of their GDP based on tourism. How this will hit their economy is hard to tell. After all, global pandemics are not a common occurrence, which is why their full effect is hard to predict. But, if there is one thing we can say for sure, it’s that these countries will feel the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry for years to come.

An empty beach during summer, showing you the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry.

Local tourism

Local tourism, on the other hand, is expected to pick up a bit. Even though we are able to practice exercise and similar activities at home, people are pretty much sick with staying indoors. Therefore, if countries continue to lower intrastate travel bans, local tourism should see a significant increase. Local tourism can provide an easy way for countries to keep their tourist agencies afloat, and to keep the risk of further spread of coronavirus to a minimum. Therefore, if there are no significant increases in the spread of COVID-19, local travel and tourism should pick up. In fact, considering that few people are going to travel abroad, local tourism may even yield some record numbers.

Transportation services

The key part of the travel industry is transportation services. Therefore, if we are going to have a clear idea of the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry, we need to take these services into account. The first thing to note is that most airline companies are asking for government aid. The month of practically no airline travel has put even the best airline companies in quite a difficult situation. If the airline travel ban lasts, we should expect the need for government bailouts in order to keep airline companies operational.

Commercial transport

Bus transport services have been hit hard, but apparently not as hard as airline companies. Most of the bus companies that provide tours and transportation for tourists are in trouble, to say the least. They might be able to bring in much-needed revenue if local tourism picks up, but even this is only a lifeline. And it is far from what these companies would normally make during this time of year.

A tourist bus

A similar case is with taxi services. With COVID-19 going about, people have been using taxis at a record low rate. Add to that the fact that a large number of taxi drivers depend on driving tourists, and you will soon see how difficult the situation is. Again, if we start returning to a normal lifestyle, taxi services should come back. But, just like bus companies, they won’t earn nearly as much as they normally would.

Industrial shipping

All things considered, commercial transport has experienced the smallest impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry. Companies that provide both commercial transport and industrial shipping should be in a much better situation than companies that only provide commercial transport. The only limitation for shipping is that companies have to adhere to certain health standards. Apart from that, they are able to pretty much do their business as usual.

Medical relief shipping

The biggest change for transportation companies comes from the need for medical relief shipping. Countries are trying their best to keep their hospitals properly stocked for combating COVID-19. This often requires international shipping of medical supplies on a much larger scale. This is why a lot of shipping companies are providing their services for medical relief. Therefore, if the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t end soon, we should see a substantial number of companies turn towards the shipping of medical equipment.

Returning home after living abroad in the middle of a pandemic

International relocation is never easy. Once you consider all the aspects you have to take care of, and all the issues you’ll have to face, you’ll soon see that it is one of the most complicated projects a person can undertake. Now, add to that the complexity of moving during a pandemic, and you will soon see why most moving companies don’t recommend dealing with it now. But, if you are truly keen on returning home after living abroad in the middle of a pandemic, there is a way that you can tackle it. And to help you make this a bit easier, we are going to go through the major points.

Returning home during the coronavirus pandemic

The important thing to understand about returning home during the coronavirus pandemic is that you need to plan carefully. While certain optimists hope that this will all blow over in a month or two, we could be looking at a pandemic that can take a full year to resolve. During this time, travel is limited, to say the least. Some countries allow their citizens to come back home, while others outright ban travel. And whatever the current situation is in your country, it can suddenly change. After all, two months ago, nobody thought that COVID-19 was anything serious. So, what we strongly recommend is that you plan carefully before you move.

Is it absolutely necessary to travel?

Once you do a bit of research, you will see that shipping your items to your home country can be much easier than completely moving there. If you have friends or relatives that can handle your items, you should consider finding a shipping company and arrange for their pickup. The biggest reason why countries either discourage or outright ban travel is that COVID-19 is highly contagious. Therefore, moving back home is much more dangerous than simply shipping your items. Our advice is to carefully consider whether traveling is the right decision.

How to prepare for the journey back home

If it is vital that you return home, along with your items, you need to prepare properly. First, we suggest that you go over the legal documentation required for returning home after living abroad. The last thing you need is to get stuck in an airport. So, make sure that you are actually able to come back home before you set out on your journey.

If you can relocate back home, you need to find a reliable company that can help you move anywhere. We would like to remind you again that international moving is arguably one of the most difficult types of relocation. Therefore, you need someone capable and reliable to help you out.

Looking for movers

The best place to start looking for movers is online. See which local moving companies offer international moving services and see which ones have the best ratings. Most companies offer free online estimates, but these should be taken with a grain of salt. At best, they will give you an idea of what your move will cost. But, the actual costs will be much more difficult to calculate, which is why they may differ substantially.

Keep in mind that not all moving companies can successfully deal with an international move, so ensure that the movers you hire have dealt with relocations similar to yours. Also, keep in mind that your movers need to work within the constraints that both your current and your home country have put in place. Therefore, your relocation might be much more complicated than you originally envisioned.

Safety measures

When returning home after living abroad in the middle of a pandemic, your primary concern should be staying safe. Luckily, doing so with COVID-19 is pretty straightforward. There are only a couple of aspects that you need to adhere to at all times:

  • Wash your hands as often as possible.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Wear a mask when spending time with strangers indoors.
  • Practice social distancing as much as possible.

Do this, and you are pretty much guaranteed to remain safe. Now, if you are a part of any high-risk groups for COVID-19, such as those with respiratory problems, you shouldn’t even consider moving. If you are considered at risk, the country you are currently in probably won’t allow you to move in the first place.

Packing

When it comes to your items, you only need to ensure that they are properly packed. In order to do this, there are two routes you can take. You can either choose to pack by yourself, which means both getting the necessary packing supplies and following a packing guide. Or, you can hire full-service movers and let them do the packing for you. If time is of the essence, which is probably the case since you need to move now, your best bet is to go with hiring professionals. That way, you will only have to bring essential travel items with you. By doing so, you will avoid rookie packing mistakes, and you will give yourself more time to prepare for your move.

What is returning home after living abroad going to be like

Once you come back home, you will probably have to spend some time in quarantine to ensure that you are free from COVID-19. The length and the necessity of quarantine will depend on the measures instated by your home country, so make sure to study up on them to know what awaits you. Once you move in, you will probably have to wait a while until you can change your legal documents. And, you probably won’t be able to see your relatives and friends for some time. So sit tight, and try to enjoy the fact that you are home.