Are these the first green shoots of recovery for travel?

After months of uncertainty, many governments around the world are easing lockdown measures. But travel remains under a cloud of doubt and there appears to be no clear end in sight for the restrictions placed on travellers and the suppliers who operate in this sector.

If Wings’ clients provide any indication then recovery will be sooner rather than later.  In the last two weeks, Wings’ Houston operation has recorded two prominent Energy sector clients starting to return to travel, working closely with us to find creative ways to ensure disruption to their business does not continue for much longer. Furthermore, several of Wings’ marine-sector clients are checking flight availability for the near future.

Other Wings’ operations around the world have reported similar experiences with clients in these sectors. Wings travel consultants in Sub-Sahara Africa, South America and Saudi Arabia had spent the last couple of months focussing on repatriation and charter flights but in the last couple of weeks this has shifted to requests for future travel.

It’s clear why travel is so critical to the Energy sector, as Chris Martin, SVP of Global Business Development puts it “You simply can’t operate a drilling rig over a Zoom meeting”. Throughout the pandemic there has been an assumption that the Energy and Marine markets will return to travel quickly after international skies open up and the enquiries we’ve recorded so far would certainly support that theory. But what about the other sectors?

In South Africa, accommodation and car rental seem to be on high request for the engineering and manufacturing industries.

In the UK, where Wings has many professional services clients, including those operating in legal and financial industries, the feedback from clients indicates that travel bans and closed borders have not halted their business entirely, but have restrained what they can do and many are now keen to restart their corporate travel. Colin Goldney, MD for UK, Europe and Russia comments that “Several of our largest or most prominent UK corporate clients are starting to book flights from June onwards,”

Likewise, professional services and similar industries in the US and South Africa, have begun raising travel requests with their Wings travel consultants. Head of Corporate Business Development, Carmen Hidalgo, comments “it’s definitely a testing of the water from clients, to see what’s available and what their options are for travel”. Initially requests in South Africa have centred on domestic travel, but since the recent relaxing of restrictions we hope that the tone may soon change to explore future international travel.

Time will tell when travel will return to more meaningful, preCovid levels, but for now it appears those with critical travel needs are starting to speak for themselves and perhaps this is the start of the green shoots of recovery for the corporate travel industry.

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