Covid-19 safety requirements are “changing the landscape” of corporate travel but provide opportunities for travel management companies (TMCs).

That is the view of Abby Penston, chief executive of the Focus Travel Partnership.

Corporate travel is likely to see a cautious return, said Penston, who warned: “Recovery will be slower than first anticipated.”

But after talking to Focus Travel partners and suppliers, she said: “It’s no secret the crisis has accelerated technology trends, but the security concerns are providing opportunities.”

Until now, Penston said: “Most corporates have worked on the assumption that everyone wanted to travel. Now many businesses are wary of sending valuable assets on the road and individuals are nervous about travelling. Safety has become top, front and centre of considerations.”

Approval processes have tightened, she said, executives “are asking why teams are travelling” and “travel policies will change”.

Penston said: “We’ve heard of some organisations turning off booking tools to force teams to get approval and not just go online and book.

These developments provide opportunities to move the industry away from a commoditised transactional model to an appreciation of value for money and service delivery.”

She added: “The pandemic and risks of a second wave underpin why it’s so important to use a TMC. It’s not just about the booking process and reducing cost. TMCs provide value by ensuring travellers are taken care of.”

Yet tighter policy restrictions “will mean fewer bookings outside agreed protocols”, when prior to the pandemic “up to 40%” of bookings were outside corporate travel policies.

At the same time, she said: “Airlines are seeing business travellers choose premium cabins which provide social distancing.”

Penston said: “The pandemic has changed the landscape. I won’t say it’s for the better, but there are opportunities for TMCs.”