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The COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered travel plans, including the business travel essential to the workforce mobility industry. However, some countries are leading the way in returning business travel to a state of normal, with governments and employers around the world continuing to find ways to get people back to work, and back to traveling. It’s just one more step in the global return to work, allowing employees to travel safely and efficiently.
Beginning 18 September, Singapore and Japan will begin a reciprocal “green lane” for business travel. These proposed green lanes allow travel from one country to another under specific safety measures. Such safety measures include pre-departure and post-arrival COVID-19 testing as well as a controlled itinerary for the first fourteen days within the country. Those who test negative for COVID-19 will not have to self-quarantine.
Singapore, a major hub for global business and a frequent expat destination, previously opened green lanes with countries like China, Malaysia, New Zealand and South Korea. Japan, another major contributor to the global economy and the mobile workforce, had not previously opened any green lanes with a fellow country until now. The new green lane for business travel between Singapore and Japan signals a return to connectivity and economic recovery as it allows for more workforce mobility.
While these countries have found a way to smoothly and safely facilitate business travel, the overall outlook on business travel among companies remains mostly low. The Global Business Travelers Association’s poll results from August showed that thirty-nine percent of companies believe that post-pandemic, the number of business trips will not recover to pre-pandemic levels for another 3 years. Business trips around the world are mostly canceled, with ninety-six percent of companies halting trips to China, for instance.
However, this doesn’t mean that companies aren’t gradually considering the return to normal business travel. Internationally, thirty-nine percent of companies have considered resuming travel in the future, while 34% reported their company being well under way in building new policies and procedures for travel recovery. One common procedure will be providing personal protective equipment (PPE) or travel kits for those who must travel, with thirty-one percent of companies reporting that they will provide PPE to their travelers.
Mobility will be key to such planning and procedure development even as the return to normal business travel remains in the early stages for most companies. Understanding duty of care and safety compliance policies and procedures will ensure that employees who can travel are kept safe along the way. In the meantime, countries leading the way with green lanes for reciprocal travel like Japan and Singapore signal that, in some parts of the world, the return to business travel is closer than we think.
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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.