According to a study by Collinson, 73 percent of business travellers worldwide shared that they will focus on their mental wellbeing more when they travel post-pandemic

Four-in-five business travellers across KSA and the UAE have seen their job affected by a lack of cross-border business travel, Lakhani said.

While physical health has been at the forefront of travel recovery since the onset of the pandemic, concerns around the impact of business travel on mental wellbeing are arising.

Almost three quarters (73 percent) of business travellers worldwide – 80 percent in Saudi Arabia and 76 percent in the UAE – said that they will be prioritising their mental wellbeing more when they travel post-pandemic, according to a study by Collinson.

‘The Return Journey’ report indicated that while these mental health concerns have recently become more prevalent, they have always existed, with 84 percent of travellers in pre-pandemic times having expressed mental health worries.

“People still want to travel and are taking to the skies, but there is definitely more of a fear factor now than before the pandemic – the issue of travel stress is particularly significant for business travellers,” she added.

Post-pandemic, 62 percent of the UAE business travellers expect travel to be even more stressful than in the past, according to the report.

Business travel recovery is needed

While business travel has placed a strain on the mental health of many travellers, the sector remains central to the global economy and its recovery is imperative for the success of many businesses, shares Lakhani.

“In a year of working-from-home and video calls, our research has found that four-in-five business travellers across KSA and the UAE have seen their job affected by a lack of cross-border business travel,” she affirmed.

Priyanka Lakhani, regional commercial director Middle East and Africa and director South Asia at Collinson.

A third of business travellers believe that the lack of travel has made their company less productive, and 33 percent in Saudi and 32 percent in the UAE said they have felt unable to do their job effectively as a result, the report revealed.

These figures indicate the need for business travel to restart, but travel companies and employers will need to place traveller wellbeing at the top of their agendas, says Lakhani.

Business travel recovery will be reliant on ensuring that all aspects of passenger wellbeing – physical and mental – are considered, as well as establishing a balance between meeting new health protocols and the passenger experience.

As businesses consider restarting cross-border travel, the challenge remains in ensuring that employees do not feel it comes at a cost to their physical and mental health, especially as the report revealed that 57 percent of employees believe that their work prioritises cost-cutting over their wellbeing, emphasised Lakhani.

New priorities

On what business travellers are now expecting post-pandemic, Lakhani shared: “Our research shows that what passengers want above all else is a seamless, stress-free experience, with social distancing measures in place from check-in to arrival, coupled with a quick and efficient con-tactless journey.”

As such, 34 percent in the UAE and 31 percent in Saudi are willing to pay for fast-track security, while 35 percent of the UAE and 36 percent of Saudi passengers say that they would pay more for a free seat next to them on the plane to ensure extra space on their journey.

Post-pandemic, 62 percent of the UAE business travellers expect travel to be even more stressful than in the past, according to the report.

While 87 percent of people said social distancing was important to them as they move through the airport, the same proportion specifically said they wanted access to socially distanced spaces in order to ‘de-stress’ and ‘relax away from the crowds’.

As business travel resumes, employees will also be looking to their employers to offer the right support to make them feel safe, Lakhani shared.

“Now, more than ever, travellers need reassurance from their company and/or travel companies, that it is safe to fly, and that their physical and mental well-being will be a priority,” she said.

“Organisations need to take a step back and understand what their employees want from the future of corporate travel and integrate this into a well-communicated Travel Risk Management (TRM) programme,” she added.

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