< PrevNext > 2020 Business Travel Buyer's Handbook Core Technology & Data Reporting Covid-19 Update: Pandemic Spurs New Biz Travel Health Tech By Adam Perrotta / July 27, 2020 / Contact Reporter Share Download ChapterBy putting an extended halt on corporate travel, the Covid-19 pandemic created at least one positive side effect: sparking the potential to reimagine the future of the industry by creating an ideal environment for technological innovation. With day-to-day travel support functions essentially removed from travel managers' and suppliers' to-do lists, the opportunity is ripe for the development and take-up of new products and revamped processes that have the promise to help corporate travel emerge from the downturn healthier than ever before. Like their travel buyer clients, suppliers are dealing with their own Covid-related struggles, and many have had to reduce workforce as revenue streams derived from client travel ran dry amid the global outbreak. But those cuts have mostly affected travel support and marketing functions, while research and development departments have remained fairly intact—and in many ways are more active than ever. Covid-19 Management Becomes Core TechnologyThe most immediate Covid-driven corporate travel innovation began as the virus was still largely contained to Asia. With corporate travel still taking place elsewhere, several virus tracking services emerged to help travel managers monitor the spread of the outbreak and assess risk for particular markets. The earliest such services were offered by travel safety and critical event specialists, which added Covid tracking to their existing risk monitoring platforms, gathering and centralizing data from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins University.With trackers expected to continue to play a vital role as travel resumes, many travel management companies and booking tool providers have since rolled out tracking tools of their own, offering features such as interactive risk assessment maps, real-time travel advisories and risk ratings. Crucially, many of these services have integrated vital safety data directly into booking flows, enabling travelers to access information on local restrictions and supplier cleanliness protocols during the process of booking a trip. Managers, meanwhile, can use integrated safety data to set booking parameters, such as requiring that trips to high-risk regions be automatically routed for approval before completing. While the importance of Covid-specific tracking presumably will decline as the outbreak abates, the pandemic has made clear the importance of having systems in place to monitor potential future large-scale events so corporate travel programs can be better prepared next time around. And with summertime Covid-19 spikes emerging in places like the United States and even Beijing, “next time around” may not be so far away.Capturing Travel Outside the Preferred ChannelThe upped emphasis on duty of care also will make preventing travel program leakage—already a longstanding priority for travel managers—even more vital post-pandemic. The virus itself may drive more travelers to adhere to the program. Still, additional approvals and protocols may push some travelers to go off channel. Capturing these bookings may become less frequent but more important in protecting workers. In the wake of the pandemic, some off-channel booking technologies have flipped their value proposition from simply bringing off-channel data back into reporting to triggering messaging to travelers to get their bookings back into the right channels. Data, Data, DataThe economic impact of the pandemic on many companies' financial situation has added even more urgency to making smart decisions about travel spending and how it will drive revenues. Given the heightened stakes, having access to complete and accurate spending data will be even more vital. Tying travel spending ultimately to sales and customer loyalty, could become a more sincere effort. In light of the uncertainty wrought by Covid-19, it could be wise for corporate buyers to re-evaluate how their travel tech stack is compiled. If a high percentage of services are delivered through the organization's travel management company, the potential for large-scale disruption is higher should that TMC fail or suffer a reduction in servicing capability. On the other hand, a more distributed, “marketplace” approach—with an array of providers each filling a specific service need—means more potential points of failure, but a lower chance of a major systemic disruption, as the risk is more widely allocated among multiple service providers. Making significant changes to a travel program is, of course, a tall task in any environment, let alone one in which organizations continue to manage the fallout from Covid-19. But those who can keep an eye to the future and devote the time, effort and financial investment to develop and implement tech-based program improvements now, stand to reap major benefits in the long term.