The future of travel Thoughts on one of IoD London's business as unusual webinars

On the 19th May the Institute of Director’s Special Interest Group; Hospitality and Tourism presented a webinar with a panel of esteemed industry leaders to discuss The Future of Travel.

Moderated by David Clare, MD The Business Travel Network, joined by Tracy Halliwell from Visit London, Steve Ridgeway, British Tourism Authority and Clive Wratten, CEO of Business Travel Association.

I’m the deputy chair for this special interest group at the IoD so I’m delighted to see that this event broke records at the IoD, with a turnout of over 300 delegates, and over 500 registered! We covered the whole spectrum of travel and tourism, from airlines to accommodation, tourist attractions to restaurants and well-being consultants. The supply chain for this industry is immense both in Corporate and Leisure travel.

Here’s a few insights I’d like to share with you, at this time of uncertainty and speculation over when we will be travelling again.

Firstly, in the initial poll taken on who and when would be happy to travel again, over 40% of attendees hoped to be able to travel this year, whether leisure or business, albeit with caution. The remaining 60% were planning on taking holidays in the UK, wouldn’t travel on business until further notice or have postponed travel until next year. However, 75% of the attendees voted that travel was anything from quite important to critical for their business operations.

So when is the right time to travel? Covid 19 will be with us for some time. So we are not discussing post Covid travel, we’re discussing travelling with Covid 19. Boris Johnson announced on 10th May that notice is being given to quarantine anyone coming into the UK for 14 days. Not at all practical for business travellers and quite unpalatable for leisure. Priti Patel announced clearer instructions on this last Friday, including the exceptions that apply. Meanwhile we see every day which airlines and other travel services are resuming in the very near future.

These are the key points I’ve taken relating to business travel are:

  • The air in a commercial airliner is constantly filtered through high quality HEPA filters and recirculated throughout the cabin, It’s some of the cleanest air you can breathe in an enclosed environment.
  • New aircraft will become the key driver for deciding which flight to take.
  • Plastic trays in security lines are “germ harbourers” – how will that be resolved?
  • No frills airlines whose model is based on minimum ground time – will they be forced to land for longer for sanitisation and avoid the “cattle stall” of passengers waiting to board?
  • Serviced accommodation which was already on the rise will become more desirable
  • Government talks are taking place to create “air bridges” and “tourist bubbles” to enable safe passage on limited routes and areas.
  • Lack of confidence in suppliers – they need to give some assurances.
  • Suppliers must collaborate to adhere to global standards

The future of travel may look quite different. Airlines may be forced to re-configure to allow for some degree of greater distancing. Private transportation may be required to avoid public transport overseas.

With an imminent deep recession it’s clear that travel needs to start somewhere. The global economy relies on movement, video conferencing can’t take the place of physically inspecting plants and sites across the world. But video conferencing has more than proved its worth so no doubt it will take over from a lot of face to face smaller meetings.

The event and conference sector is going to most hit with the experts predicting now return to large scale conferences with 1000’s of attendees not returning for at least 2 years. They foresee more conference “hubs”, for instance Paris, London, Frankfurt smaller scale conferences but with video connections – a sort of hybrid version.

The positive takeaways are that it may just become a more pleasant experience and have a more positive effect on the climate argument. Perhaps, we’ll see less congestion at airports, an orderly system of embarking an aircraft such as the return of pre-allocated seats for all to avoid the “scrum” of getting on a plane!

The attendees unanimously agreed that travel is essential for business and leisure and will not and cannot stop! We must proceed with caution, information, careful planning and safety first.

Watch the webinar recording here

If you are planning to travel, business or leisure, please don’t hesitate to contact ACE if you’d like to discuss your plans or indeed how to proceed with policy changes which will be needed.

Stay safe and keep well,

Best wishes,

Sarah Wilson


ACE Travel Management

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