As the roadmap out of lockdown starts to ease, enquiries to our teams have begun increasing, with a wide range of questions from travel restrictions, what air services are available through to quarantine restrictions and whether travel is legal.

For some industry sectors, travelling for business has remained permissible, sectors such as Marine and Offshore, engineering, construction and key workers or specific guidelines that relate to the purpose of travel have enabled around 10-15% of international business travel to continue. Within the UK, the latest lockdown has suppressed all but essential travel.

However, for most businesses, it is more about planning than being able to travel. For many in practical sectors that we work with, the current restrictions are holding back business from being able to deliver contracts, maintain or install equipment or to build relationships which are so vital in growing your organisation. Whilst the video calls with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others have dominated the business world in the last 12 months, there is a need for the blend of both in the future.

This gives rise to the reasons for travel and what sort of travel may be permitted. How urgent or business-critical is it and what are the repercussions of not being able to ‘do the job’ required.

As we await further announcements from the 12th of April from the Government of the findings of the Global Travel Taskforce, the earliest indication given for non-essential travel to be permitted was the 17th May 2021 and the introduction of a traffic light system.

Clive Wratten – Chief Executive of the Business Travel Association (BTA) released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement from the Prime Minister is beyond disappointing. We are leading the way in vaccination and science. This is a huge cause of celebration, but, if we are to re-start our economy, we need to have a clear pathway to international travel and trade. This has once again been kicked down the road.

To be a truly global Britain, we must lead the way in opening borders, supporting vital supply chains, and digitising health certification. The business travel industry continues to be crippled by today’s lack of movement. We ask the Government to be confident in its roadmap as the Global Travel Taskforce reports on the 12th April. This is our last resort.”

Good Travel Management welcome any routes to enable a sensible and safe return to travelling for business. This is not just for selfish reasons, our industry could not have had it worse these last 12 months, however, it is the instinct and appetite from our client base, many who are SME businesses, who need to be back on their feet after Covid-19, Brexit and a trading environment that has been more about surviving than thriving. There needs to be a clear differentiation between travelling as a choice (on holiday) and travelling for a purpose. Business Travel underpins the UK economy, a Global Britain that needs to step out on its road to recovery and the opportunities that present themselves post-Brexit. Whilst much of the world lags, the UK’s vaccination programme is helping the country start to rebuild its confidence, but it can only truly do so if we can start to trade and travel effectively overseas.

With new markets potentially on the Horizon through the UK’s intention to join Asia-Pacific free trade area – CPTPP – this could open the markets of many key countries and business markets with sectors that align themselves to the strengths we have in the UK. Countries such as Australia, Japan, Canada, and New Zealand are joined by many others including Chile, Singapore, Mexico, and Malaysia. As Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary said, ‘In future it’s going to be Asia-Pacific countries in particular where the big markets are, where growing middle-class markets are, for British products,” International Trade Secretary Liz Truss told the BBC’s, Andrew Marr.

“Of course, British businesses will have to reach out and take these opportunities, but what I’m doing is I’m creating the opportunities, the low tariffs, removing those barriers so they can go out and do that.”

You can read more of her comments in the BBC news article HERE.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be featuring the countries within CPTPP to highlight the trade and business opportunities there are for UK businesses. However, to highlight the point, British Businesses will have to reach out and take these opportunities and to do so will require our International Connectivity and travel infrastructure to be at the forefront of this. We look forward to hearing more of the plans over the forthcoming days and weeks and ask the Government to recognise and support the business travel sector in its efforts to rebuild through a clear and structured plan that has solid foundations.

Kevin Harrison – 8th April 2021.