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International travel in a pandemic: The business view

Frances Spree Senior Executive 16/06/2021

With lockdown restrictions gradually starting to ease (despite latest setbacks) and the sun finally starting to shine, it’s no surprise that many of us are dreaming of a long-awaited summer holiday.

When it comes to domestic travel, larger businesses are significantly less likely to be permitting this than smaller organisations, likely due to a greater onus on procedures and protocol within these larger organisations.

With lockdown restrictions gradually starting to ease (despite latest setbacks) and the sun finally starting to shine, it’s no surprise that many of us are dreaming of a long-awaited summer holiday.

The Covid-19 pandemic has totally transformed the way we get our summer R&R, with international travel still not possible to the majority of countries without the need for testing and quarantining.

Businesses and workers, like everyone else in the UK are being forced to have to make some challenging considerations. Not only must they navigate policies and procedures around business travel, but they now also have to make certain considerations around how employees use their holiday time in a way that will have a minimal impact on their working lives once they return.

As part of our Savanta UK Business Tracker, we surveyed over 1000 private sector employees from a range of business sizes and industries to understand how the pandemic is affecting their organisations. We found that although the restrictions are easing, businesses still have real and valid concerns when it comes to international travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Only 12% of businesses currently permit international business travel

Although the pandemic restrictions are easing, less than a third (29%) of businesses are permitting domestic business travel, dropping to only 12% permitting international business travel.

When it comes to domestic travel, larger businesses are significantly less likely to be permitting this than smaller organisations, likely due to a greater onus on procedures and protocol within these larger organisations. However, when it comes to permitting international travel, we do not see any significant differences in organisation size, demonstrating that the regulations surrounding international travel are impacting smaller and larger organisations alike.

Larger organisations are more likely to be concerned about how they will cope with a wider introduction of international travel for summer holidays

Part of the regulations impacting international travel for businesses is the government’s “traffic light” travel system. This system places countries on the green, amber, or red list and dictates the need to self-isolate prior to and on return from travel, as well as the need to have Covid tests before, during and after travel.

Those working for larger and smaller businesses have some differences in agreement when it comes to the traffic light system. Larger business employees are significantly more likely to agree that their business supports the traffic light system, however they are also more likely to agree that their business has some concerns with how the system will impact the day-to-day function of their business. This demonstrates that although larger organisations are more likely to be supportive of the new system, they also have some real concerns surrounding how it will work in reality.

Those working for larger organisations are also significantly more likely to report that their organisations are putting measures in place to manage employee holidays as international travel restrictions ease. Larger organisations are significantly more likely to be asking employees to take the statutory minimum requirement of holiday throughout the year, as well as capping the maximum amount of holiday days employees are able to take in one go, so as to manage a balance between employee time off and business function. Smaller organisations are significantly more likely to not be making any additional plans to manage holiday requests, indicating a more relaxed attitude to managing how employees take holiday and return to work.

69% of businesses agree that the reintroduction of travel is likely to see a rise in Covid-19 cases in the UK

Although smaller businesses are less likely than medium and large organisations to be putting measures in place to manage how employees take holidays, with the easing of restrictions those working at both smaller and larger organisations are on the same page when it comes to concern about the risk of rising cases and new variants of the coronavirus.

70% of those working at smaller businesses and 65% of those working at larger businesses are concerned that the reintroduction of international travel will lead to an increase in Covid-19 cases in the UK.

64% also reported that their business is concerned about the new variants and the potential impact of the third wave. 63% of those working at smaller businesses and 65% of those working at larger businesses reported this concern, demonstrating that although there are some differences in how larger organisations are responding to the easing of travel restrictions, there is real concern about its impacts across the majority of businesses regardless of size.

This concern means that less than half (42%) of those surveyed are likely to book a holiday between July and September of this year, with only 15% describing themselves as very likely to do this.

It’s clear therefore that even as restrictions ease, there are still valid concerns around holidays and travel both domestically and internationally. It might yet be too early to pack our bags and switch on our out of office emails, but here’s hoping that next year we finally get that long-awaited summer holiday!

Get in touch: For more information about our new UK Business Tracker please download our rate card and/or get in touch with one of our business experts here.

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