As we incrementally emerge from the pall cast over the globe by that nasty little virus, it’s like blinking in the bright sunlight as you come out of a cave. After being in a confined space with limited choices for movement, you can suddenly go in any direction you wish, but the dazzling options may have you seeing stars. As travel restrictions lift, international travel is resuming for both business and leisure travel; however, there is a host of new (and changing) considerations travelers need to keep in mind. Here are some key tips and advice to refresh your memory.
Business travelers are ready – with some caveats.
In a recent poll of 3850 business travelers across 25 worldwide markets, Concur found that 96 percent of respondents are willing to take a business trip within the next 12 months. The personal reasons cited for wanting to travel included making in-person connections with customers and colleagues (54 percent), experiencing a new place (52 percent), and getting a break from routine life (41 percent). But 80 percent also expressed concern that their job would suffer if they did not resume business travel.
TSA data shows that the air travel passenger count has rebounded to 90 percent of 2019 levels. Hotel occupancy rates (and prices) are up and car rental demand far exceeds supply. Many businesses in the U.S. are planning for employees to return to offices this summer. Travel Maestro tip: After months of excess capacity and distressed pricing, travel is back. Last-minute travel is no longer a bargain. Make reservations (especially rental cars) well in advance to secure your preferred arrangements and price.
While the motivation to resume travel is strong, travelers’ need for safety is paramount. Business travelers want their company to implement post-pandemic travel guidelines to keep them healthy such as vaccination-related policies (62 percent) and flexibility in choosing their own transportation, lodging, and travel dates (72 percent).
Additional documentation for international travel.
In May, after a full year of travel restrictions, the European Union Commission agreed to allow vaccinated Americans to visit Europe. A firm date has not yet been announced and E.U. member countries can set their own entrance parameters. At the time of writing, many countries still have a mandatory quarantine time upon entry, along with a negative testing protocol. Some others do allow Americans to enter without quarantine but may require proof of negative testing. Travel Maestro tip: Requirements are very fluid. Use the BCD COVID-19 Information Hub to help make informed travel decisions.
Currently, all air passengers entering the U.S., including vaccinated citizens and children age two or older, must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of arrival or show proof of recovery from COVID-19. This requirement may be dropped in the future, but for now, anyone embarking on international travel needs to arrange for testing immediately before returning to the U.S. Travel Maestro tip: United Airlines has partnered with a home-testing kit producer to make it easy for passengers to pack a CDC-approved home-testing kit that they can use before their return flight and upload results, eliminating the need to source a local test in an international destination.
Digital wallets are growing in popularity.
Digital wallets have been used for mobile payments for years but now several companies are developing applications that digitally interface with verifiable clinical information so that users can upload their health records and vaccine credentials. These are sometimes called digital health passports but to be clear, these apps do not replace a passport or visa to enter a country. VeriFLY is the first widely adopted app, with over 800,000 users. American Airlines is now accepting VeriFLY documentation for travel to El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Bahamas. A market leader for digital health records is yet to be determined.
Travel Maestro tip: If a vaccination certificate is required for your destination, always verify if digital documentation is acceptable before travel. If you carry a physical card, make several copies of the front and back of the original. Laminate one of the copies to use for travel and pack another copy in a separate place. Keep the original unlaminated at home in case you need to add a booster shot to it in the future.
Business travelers, their customers, and certainly the millions of people who work for travel and hospitality providers are all happy that international travel is ready for take-off again. All that remains is to get your documents in order, take recommended safety precautions, and head for the jetway. Oh, don’t forget to contact Covington to book your ticket!