As of July 5, eligible Canadian travellers who are fully vaccinated and have negative COVID-19 test results and symptoms are now able to enter Canada without having to go through mandatory hotel stays and home quarantines. While non-essential business travel may soon be in the cards, Corporate Canada is not off to the airports just yet.

The pandemic has prompted many companies to reconsider their business travel strategies. According to the Global Business Travel Association, business travel in Canada dropped by 51% in 2020. As restrictions ease and vaccinations speed up, business leaders are having conversations about what’s next. For some, it’s a restless waiting game until borders reopen. But for many, a hybrid approach to travel may be the new normal.

The desire to travel depends on a person’s industry and role. Among those eager to travel in full force are employees whose work depends on being in a physical environment or with equipment, such as construction and engineering companies. As president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Dennis Darby spent last year advocating for those industries to retain their essential status, but travel was still reduced substantially. Now, he said, the pending easing of border restrictions will make an immediate difference for companies whose work is hands-on.

For PCL Construction, a company with operations based in Canada, the U.S. and Australia, the first step in easing travel restrictions is welcome news. CEO Dave Filipchuk said the move will help Canadians in the construction business to return from work trips. But he said there will still be hurdles. For one, other countries, such as Australia, have stricter travel restrictions.

However, other types of corporate gatherings might take longer to bounce back. Industry experts expect that trade shows won’t return in full force until at least the spring of 2022, for instance. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the easing of travel restrictions after July 5 will only help a very small subset of the business community – fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents travelling for essential business. While Canada’s hotel sector sees a seasonal spike in tourists during the summer, business events and corporate travel sustain the industry the rest of the year. The Hotel Association of Canada estimates that prepandemic levels of revenue will not be reached until 2025.

With stay-at-home orders throughout the pandemic, many organizations found that things they felt needed to be done in person, could actually be handled remotely. As restrictions ease, leaders will need to reassess and decide what level of business travel is necessary and of value for their teams.

Source: Globe and Mail