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The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected travel plans. International travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders combined with employers’ emphasis on duty-of-care for mobile employees put a temporary stop to most travel. As governments and employers seek a return to business and economic recovery, they are devising new ways for travel to happen safely.
The COVID-19 crisis is winding down in some parts of the world while others continue to struggle with containing its spread. Countries weighing reopening options are developing new and innovative ideas to conduct business travel that ensures safety. “Travel bubbles” were first seen in New Zealand and Australia, which open up limited travel between the two countries under detailed safety precautions for every step of the way. This includes “precautions on board the aircraft, passenger movement through airports and contact-tracing requirements at the destination.”
Thailand is newly open to the idea of “business travel bubbles.” In order to come to Thailand, business travelers must come from a country with economic benefit to Thailand. In addition, officials consider the state of infections in the business travelers’ home country in granting entry. Additionally, permanent residents, work permit holders, foreign students, and people seeking certain health treatments qualify for entry. So far, the list of approved countries includes Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, as well as some Chinese provinces.
Singapore has proposed a “green lane” to make business travel faster and easier. A handful of other countries like China, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and Malaysia are looking at similar schemes. The countries agree to mutual testing protocols and standards, rather than grappling with different safety testing standards and 15-day quarantines.
As governments devise plans to reopen borders in a safe and measured way, there will likely be many steps along the way. This includes traveler risk assessment, requiring passengers to specify where they’re staying and their travel within the country. Technology and privacy will play a significant role, with governments collaborating on standards to keep the privacy of passengers secure.
Whatever the future holds for business travel and entering the new phase of overall business operations, keeping employees safe remains a top priority for companies around the world. Whether through green lanes or travel bubbles, new ideas for business travel experience will be innovative ways to keep travelers safe.
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Mobility is Worldwide ERC®’s monthly magazine, delivering industry and business news and updates, as well as insights on global talent mobility programs, tips and trends.