Buckle up for the new normal


Return to travel – a snapshot of post-COVID USA

Domestic business travel in the USA is almost back to pre-COVID levels, border and travel restrictions are at a minimum, and life is in full swing as per the ‘new normal’. If the travel environment in the USA is anything to go by, Australia better prepare for a speedy return to heightened business activity.

Charlene Leiss, President of Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate division in the USA detailed what life, work and travel was like in the US, during her interview at Illuminate.

“By and large the US is back to normal. Kids are back at school, stadiums are open, and traffic has returned. Most employees are back in offices in some way, whether it be full time or in a hybrid working model, although the Delta variant has caused some companies to stay closed until the new year,” she said.

For Australians eagerly awaiting to fly again, the current state of domestic and international travel in the US is a forecast of what Australian travel will look like.

“From a domestic point of view, things are back to normal, with the exception of having to wear masks in airports and on flights. The airports are crazy busy and flights are full, which at the beginning of our recovery was due to a lack of flights, but now all major airlines have upped their capacity across all routes, so domestic travel is busy on a regular day-to-day basis,” she said.

Although slower than domestic travel due to more restrictions and complexities, international travel is also picking up in the US, and many have already made the trip across the border to Canada, or to Europe and beyond.

Corporate travel is also mostly back to normal, though Charlene believes things are a bit different. After almost two years of virtual meetings and events, some companies, having realised the importance of face-to-face interactions, are focused on getting people together and running more live events.

“Restrictions on travel policies are also easing, particularly in the last few months, after companies tighten their travel policies at the beginning of the pandemic,” she said.

Most importantly for companies that travel, a travel consultant and travel management company are needed more than ever to navigate the complexities of the ‘new normal’ with its testing, vaccination and quarantine requirements.

For organisations preparing to travel again, Charlene recommends that communication and a proper framework are key.

“Organisations need to make sure they are getting the very best advice, up-to-date safety information and understand what the restrictions are and what requirements might exist between two destinations, to be able to support their travelling employees.

“The Travel Hub is a great source of information for customers, while also providing a framework about travel policy, how to access the latest updates and what happens if something goes wrong while on a trip," she said