Business travel hasn’t halted as a result of COVID-19. But, business travel is different, and different isn’t a bad thing.
Recently, One10 President & CEO Bob Miller, traveled from Chicago to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Meetings Mean Business Board of Directors summer meeting. Meetings Mean Business is an industry-wide coalition formed to demonstrate the value of face-to-face events, and this summer meeting was one of the industry’s first hybrid meetings since the start of COVID-19 in March.
Follow along as Bob documents his travel experiences and showcases that business meetings are possible during a pandemic, business travel isn’t dead, and COVID-19 has forced us to innovate in ways never before expected.
Ground transportation is effective
Bob used ride-sharing apps to travel to and from the airports and his hotels. This is no different than pre-pandemic, but what was different this time was all drivers were wearing face masks. Plus, Bob had to confirm in the app before the ride that he would be wearing one as well.
Added bonus: traffic was lighter than normal, so battling airport traffic was a breeze.
The travel takeaway: Bob had a typical ground transportation experience and felt safe every step of the way.
Airports are easy
Bob traveled on American Airlines from Chicago O’Hare to Reagan National and experienced a relaxed traveling experience. The AA Club in the terminal offered the same exceptional service as pre-pandemic, with happy employees and travelers. The one noticeable change was the food within the club. Gone are the food buffets and instead, travelers receive snack bags.
The travel takeaway: There were no lines, no crowds and all flights were on time. This is good news to manage social distancing within airports.
Airplanes were clean
Here’s where travel looks different, and it’s a good thing. Bob immediately noticed low passenger counts in both coach and first-class on both of his American Airlines flights. This is a good sign that airlines are working hard to maintain reasonable passenger levels to maintain social distancing. Bob also perceived the planes were cleaner than ever before. The touch screens were removed from the seats to minimize spreading germs, passengers received an antiseptic wipe along with their snack and bottle of water, and masks were required.
The travel takeaway: The airplane experience was positive and more sanitary than in the past.
Hotels are ready for travelers
The Meetings Mean Business Board of Directors summer meeting was held at the Grand Hyatt, which boasts 897 rooms and suites and two floors of meeting space. Bob observed the hotel was very clean and employees were delighted to see travelers.
The travel takeaway: In order to appeal to business travelers, we’ll start to see a baseline of services that all hotels promise to deliver to guests regarding cleanliness, sanitation and social distancing.
Meetings are possible
Bob was impressed with the level of detail to ensure safety measures were followed during the hybrid virtual/in-person summer meeting. Overall, the hybrid model worked well to extend the reach of the meeting and allow additional virtual participants. In-person attendees were seated three people to a table (that could accommodate eight), to maintain social distancing. Podiums were cleaned and foam covers on the microphones were replaced after each speaker. Food and beverage was provided by servers standing behind plastic dividers.
The travel takeaway: Future meeting configurations will require an entirely new set of space considerations to allow appropriate room for set-up, AV support, and food and beverage needs.
In the end, business travel is safe, effective, and it will continue. We applaud the enormous efforts of hotels, airlines, airports and other suppliers in revamping their procedures and adjusting their strategies to ensure travelers and meeting attendees are safe.
Do you want to see what business travel looks like? Watch David Blansfield, Northstar Meetings Group executive vice president and group publisher’s travels to Washington, D.C.: https://www.northstarmeetingsgroup.com/what-meetings-travel-looks-like-2020