Duty of Care, Travel Tech and the Future of Travel

April 6, 2021

The travel industry doesn’t need to be reminded that things are different now from what they were during the last few years. Today, a company’s biggest concern is the risk-versus-reward of business travel. With duty of care concerns at an all-time high and companies watching their cash flow, the scrutiny with which we analyze business travel has increased considerably.

While saving money has been a long-time goal for corporations, duty of care has, in many cases, been a lower priority. Businesses concentrated on bottom-line costs. Now, however, due to Covid-19 and civil unrest over the past year, travel tech is being tasked with solving the need for a dynamic duty of care plan and a rigorous framework for controlling costs.

The return to business travel

I believe business travel will start to rebound in 2021 with further recovery in the next few years. Bill Gates is famous for saying 50% of travel will disappear permanently. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian thinks that number is closer to 20%. Dr. Anthony Fauci claims life could return to normal by fall of this year if most Americans get a Covid-19 vaccine.

Everyone is speculating on the return to travel and has their own predictions. What I do know, especially from listening to customers, is there’s pent-up demand for travel.  

Many people admit working together virtually has its benefits, but you can’t replace the social, relationship building aspect of face-to-face meetings with Zoom. Colleagues will still want to collaborate in person, sales reps will want to pitch their prospects in a live setting, and industry professionals will still want to share ideas over coffee.  

Evaluating the need for business travel

So, how should leaders approach decision-making about business travel in the next year?

The first step is evaluating the benefits, or return on investment, of travel. Do you as a company have a better chance of winning that customer if a sales rep visits the prospect’s office? Can your team accomplish more during a four-hour strategy meeting if they do it in person? Will pitching an idea at a startup conference have more of an impact on your growth than doing it via webinar? I think the answer to all these questions is obvious; in-person interactions help develop meaningful relationships and build business.

Once you’ve completed the benefits analysis, the next step is minimizing risk. Global Guardian CEO Dale Buckner says corporations need to reevaluate their entire duty of care program. He noted at our Deem Miles Ahead Summit that travel disruptions are now in a near-constant state. This means travel managers need a coherent platform for addressing traveler risk and safety.

At Deem, we launched Travel SafetyCheck. This dynamic functionality within our Etta travel platform helps travelers understand travel requirements and potential risks while they’re planning and booking a trip. We partnered with Routehappy by ATPCO and GeoSure to provide contextual safety and risk information to empower travelers when they are planning for their trip.

Travel tech powers the future of travel

There are many influences that will impact the future of travel, from digital health passports and touchless check-in to mobile usage and improvements in user experience. When I spoke to Doug Anderson, former CEO of American Express Global Business Travel, he highlighted the acceleration in corporate travel innovations and recent investment in providing real-time, contextual and personalized solutions to travelers.

At Deem, we’re focused on providing a convenient and wholistic platform that allows travelers to manage every aspect of their trip, from renting a car to reconciling an expense report, rather than forcing them to use multiple apps and websites. We believe that taking a traveler-centric approach to technology will transform the entire travel ecosystem — from duty of care to controlling costs — and provide the solutions we need for the return to travel.

Hear more about leading through rapidly changing times from David Grace and Doug Anderson at the Deem Miles Ahead Virtual Summit.

Author

David Grace
President, Deem

David Grace is an accomplished travel industry veteran with more than two decades of experience leading strategic and management teams for Enterprise Holdings and National Car Rental, and most recently, Deem, Inc. Having been an integral part of the 2019 acquisition of Deem by Enterprise Holdings and then signing on as Deem’s Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), Grace was named President at Deem in November 2020. Grace began his career at National Car Rental and quickly moved into leadership roles, including Vice President of Sales and Vice President of Strategic Accounts, where he led nationwide sales. He later transitioned into executive roles at Enterprise Holdings and, currently, at Deem. Grace is a global travel and mobility thought leader, and a well-known industry speaker. He frequently presents at live and virtual events around the world for industry organizations including Business Travel News and GBTA, and is quoted regularly in trade publications.

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