Working in business travel – in the midst of a global travel ban

Kate Fletcher

April 7 ∙ 5 minutes read

I’ve only ever cried at work once. It was about 4 months after my Father died of cancer and everything had all become a bit too much. I haven’t felt like that in the three years since – until now. Again, it has all become a bit too much.  

The COVID-19 global pandemic is heartbreaking. On all fronts. For the thousands being taken away from their families prematurely. For the health systems and frontline workers so valiantly doing their utmost to treat the mass population whether for health or vital services. We will eternally owe them a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they are making right now. 

And then there’s the monumental impact this current crisis is having on business. On your business, your connections’ businesses, your friends’ businesses.

People first. Business second.

We took the decision very early on to encourage the team to work from home. Being in software-as-a-service, we’re used to it. The disruption has been minimal in that respect. We gave everybody last Friday off. Not only to give them the flexibility to prepare for the imminent lockdown in the UK but to allow some time to mentally adjust to the rollercoaster of last week. It was a lot to take in.

But the stark reality for us is that we work in the travel industry. SalesTrip simplifies business travel and expense management for the road warriors out there. There is a global travel ban and a majority of employee expenses are incurred as a result of travel. Commercial teams account for on average 80% of expense spend across an entire organisation; sales executives meeting prospects, marketing putting on events, customer success teams checking in with customers.

But business must go on. We all know this. We are navigating unchartered waters but things won’t be like this forever and once through this, the majority will be playing revenue growth catch up. Businesses will need to hit the ground running and so personally, we’re taking this time to prepare for then, whenever it may be. 

How we’re preparing

I thought it would be useful to share a few immediate things that my team and I are focused on right now. They could apply to many businesses – no matter the industry, no matter the role. 

Audit your current programmes and activities: We had to mobilise VERY quickly on this. Our flagship piece of content was on the financial impact of business travel. Cue immediate analysis of all digital ads, pause the majority and then backfill. No matter the situation, we still have to drive awareness and build interest. But we have a responsibility to do this sensitively. Acknowledge the environment, know your audience, know your timing. 

Remove all barriers to people learning about you: People no longer have the opportunity to educate themselves about vendors/suppliers through physical events. Yes, these are becoming virtual and whilst attendance figures suggest they are well attended, it still doesn’t replace the value of face-to-face meetings. Offer your audiences as many opportunities as possible to help with this deficit – and offer it for free. Now is not the time to be asking for a business email address, job title, phone number and their soul. 

Review your tech stack: Now admittedly we were already doing this as a business but this enforced downtime has accelerated our efforts. Now more than ever we need to streamline and find efficiencies. Challenge the status quo. No-one can afford to be spending on technology systems that offer little to no value and aren’t adopted by employees. And from a business disruption perspective, it is the lowest it can possibly be. With most workers at home, it gives you a real chance to implement new processes and systems, robustly test and refine them.

Step up your data analysis: we are a very data-driven business but there’s still more we can be doing and so are taking a real hard look at all our marketing data. Which campaigns had a good yield, which didn’t? How are prospects converting through the pipeline? What can we do to accelerate conversion? This will allow you to ramp up effort in the right places when business resumes. Every spending decision will come into question right now so make sure you have the answers with data, not gut feel. If you don’t have access to this data, then the previous point is even more important.

And on a personal level, offer your skills to local, independent businesses and those more vulnerable who may not have access to the tech that you and I take for granted. We should all be skill sharing. 

I’m helping a local fitness business, JWS Fitness & Wellbeing, come up with new ways to keep his clients exercising which is so critical to mental health, especially in times of extreme uncertainty. When group classes and corporate bootcamps are 75% of his business, COVID-19 has really impacted him. I’m offering up different perspectives to help him transition to this virtual world. How to engage with clients, what to share and not share on social media. He is smashing it by keeping his community members engaged and positive. Please check him out in the video below – his PMA is as powerful as the best belly laugh you’ve ever had.

An ex-colleague and friend of mine Harriet Kirk is offering online language lessons – I put my hand up immediately. You’d be amazed at how transferable your skills are and how many people would be so appreciative of them.

And lastly, it’s OK to cry. 

This article first appeared on LinkedIn on 24th March 2020.


Kate Fletcher