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Navigating business travel and insurance with COVID-19

State and national borders have progressively opened since 1 November 2021. But it’s a new world order for corporate travel. That includes transient travel and trips for meetings, incentives, and conferences. These may be for events held for business development, client visits, industry expositions, or off-site team meetings.

Impact of COVID on business travel

According to the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics, 1.02 million passengers travelled on domestic commercial aviation, including charter operations, in August. That compares to more than five times that number in August 2019 (5.43).

Lockdowns and remote working have increased the popularity of video conferencing apps, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Companies will continue to use those in the long term, though they won’t replace the need for face-to-face meetings, on-site inspections, etc. Also, a global survey found more than a third of companies are looking to reduce their travel budget to trim their carbon footprint and earn sustainability kudos with customers.

The top concerns for business travellers are infection and vaccination rates at the destination and how travellers could be more environmentally sustainable in making their trip, according to a Concur survey. Travellers are demanding more flexibility from their employers, such as choosing alternative airlines, hotels, and transportation providers to suit their needs.

Long term impact expected

In the longer-term, 50% of business travel will disappear compared to pre-pandemic times, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has predicted. That will impact the viability of CBD hotels, particularly those primed for business travellers with their spacious conference venues. Multi-national investment bank and financial services company, Citigroup, however, forecasts corporate travel will only slip by a quarter.

Meanwhile, professional services firm McKinsey is more optimistic, saying business travel will only recover to 80% of pre-COVID-19 levels by 2024. Regional travel, including that for essential business operations, client or in-personal sales meetings in manufacturing, construction and manufacturing sectors, will return first, says McKinsey. International air travel for industry conferences, trade shows, exhibitions and events in healthcare, education and professional services will follow.

How to travel safely during COVID

The Insurance Council of Australia has deemed travel insurance as crucial as a passport for overseas trips. For extra protection, some insurers are offering COVID-related travel cover. However, this doesn’t apply to travel to countries with level 4 adverse Smart Traveller advice. As well, some countries such as the UAE, Thailand and Singapore, require overseas visitors to have this cover for COVID-related medical treatment.

Be on the lookout, too, for flights and accommodation with generous COVID cancellation policies. And make sure your employer aims for failsafe measures for your health and safety.

What travel insurance is likely to cover

Regular travel insurance will typically cover you for medical and dental needs and assistance, changed or cancelled travel plans, lost luggage and theft.

But during COVID times, it pays to check your policy. Keep in mind, though, you’re unlikely to find domestic or international travel insurance to cover cancellations due to pandemic lockdowns or government restrictions. Most policies would only cover you for the costs of trip cancellation if you or a fellow traveller contracted COVID-19.

Your insurance checklist before you travel

Consider these factors when booking your travel insurance:

  • Ensure you’re getting cover for your specific trip and needs. One-size-fits all insurance isn’t available
  • Check out the policy’s premium, inclusions, exclusions, excess and claims limit
  • Verify the policy will cover you automatically for COVID because it may be an extra on some policies
  • Determine if cancellation costs are covered if you need to alter your plans, so book flexible airfares and accommodation packages
  • Find out what the COVID rules are at the destination. These may include vaccination, insurance cover plus a negative pre-trip COVID test result
  • Don’t assume complimentary travel insurance with your credit card will be adequate for COVID
  • Avoid forfeiting a big investment such as for a conference or accommodation when something unexpected forces you to cancel your trip.

We can guide you on insurance cover to reduce your risks of business travel.