Last time, we looked at Brexit through the eyes of a travel manager with 5 Tips to Help Manage Corporate Travel. This week we focus our attention on the effect of Brexit on the business traveler.
Freedom of movement across the EU has led to a thriving marketplace, with travel over the last decades made simple for companies in the UK and Europe. But, the moment the UK made the decision to leave the EU, this changed. Business travelers have been left in limbo, wondering what impact this profound change will have on the marketplace, the company they represent and, ultimately, their livelihood.
Since the referendum, experts have queued up to offer their opinion on what will happen, when it will happen and why, but the truth is, nobody knows. It may take several years before the UK makes a clean break from the EU after separating out all of the entanglements.
So, when the deal is finally done and the dust settles, how will the corporate travel landscape look and what will the future hold for business travelers post Brexit?
Just like traveling, Brexit comes with many of its own baggage issues, however, we’ve highlighted the 4 key concerns for business travelers and laid out some crucial information to help navigate this challenging time.
1. No more freedom of movement?
Perhaps the primary concern for business travelers is the abolition of freedom of movement. The ‘open skies’ agreement between the UK and the EU has been a massive weight off the wings of business travelers. No need for a visa - just whip out your passport and you’re good to go. But once Brexit kicks in, British citizens may well be third country nationals without automatic rights to enter the EU.
However, there’s a strong chance that not much will change in this regard. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) – who are working closely with the UK government – are confident of securing the best possible deal for the UK travel industry.
Add to this the fact that the economic importance of travel can’t be overstated enough. The travel industry plays a crucial part in the UK economy, with leisure travel making up 9% of economic activity and the corporate travel industry worth a whopping £39bn. Overseas travel, in particular, is an important element of the industry with almost 5 million business trips made by travelers from the UK to the EU.
For these reasons, it seems likely that the UK-EU ‘open skies’ agreement will remain, though perhaps in a slightly altered form, post-Brexit.
2. The end of free roaming?
A year after the UK voted to leave the EU, the EU voted to introduce ‘free roaming’, meaning mobile phone charges were treated as domestic, regardless of where you were in the EU. Hugely beneficial for business travelers, the right to roam without paying a minor fortune may well be revoked post-Brexit, which would be rotten luck.
But what’s the likelihood of this truly happening? Again, the messages are mixed. MPs wouldn’t bet against it, while UK networks say they have ‘no plans’ to reintroduce roaming fees. However, ‘no plans’ doesn’t sound particularly reassuring, does it?
More reassuring is the emergence of the new iPhone’s imbedded sim card, which could significantly reduce roaming charges. Technology, at least, to the rescue.
3. The effect of rising costs
The soaring cost of travel is a justifiable concern of business travelers. The drop in the value of the pound, the threat to the open skies agreement and the rising cost of accommodation all could have a second-hand effect on business travelers.
If businesses fail to adapt, antiquated travel policies will see travelers continuing to pay for expenses up-front, leaving them prey to the painful process of reimbursement. Making workers wait to be reimbursed after splashing out to cover the cost of a canceled flight should be nowhere near a travel policy in 2019!
By shifting away from old-world corporate travel agents to pioneering online travel platforms, there are many ways companies can save money while simultaneously revolutionizing their travel plan. And while Brexit will no doubt bring regulations, complications and untold expenses, the concept of business travel is constantly changing, with innovation in accommodation, inter-city travel and public transport shaping the way forward.
4. Will change of policy = change of experience?
Business travelers are apprehensive that Brexit will negatively affect travel policies, with budget cuts putting the squeeze on their overall experience.
Business travel booking sites that simplify business travel processes for everyone involved will be the go-to tool in the evolving corporate travel landscape of 2019, streamlining the scope of any impact of Brexit.
With such a solution, business travelers will be able to take control and tailor their business trip to their own preferences, all while staying on-policy, getting the best of both worlds. The final outcome will be less stress for business travelers, travel managers and CFOs.
For the business traveler, there shouldn’t be too much to worry about; navigating an increasingly complex, connected world has never been smoother, with ingenious apps and ultra-modern travel tools at your fingertips. With preparation and a well thought out travel plan in place, the best companies will thrive post-Brexit and be able to attract and retain the best talent.
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