You’re not safe until we’re all safe, was the underlying message from aviation minister Robert Courts last week, speaking at the Institute of Travel Management’s (ITM) Virtual ‘Revive’ conference, reports Alison Chambers. 

Interviewed by Richard Tams, founding director of Tailwind Advisory, he voiced concern about new virus variants.  

Pledging support to the business travel sector, he acknowledged the vital importance of business travel, which accounted for one in five passengers in 2019, supporting many jobs and linking to a wide ecosystem.  He concurred certification of digital travel passes will have a role to play and said that Government was “working with industry providers to get the cost down,” (of PCR tests.)  A major theme of Revive concerned planning future events.  

Most delegates agreed hybrid was the way forward. Investment bank UBS is already planning hybrid events, we heard.  According to ITM, business travel for the purpose of meeting clients will begin to scale up in the second half of this year, providing vaccination programmes are successful.  

Surveying 123 corporate travel buyers from its membership, 71% said client-facing meetings would not be replaced permanently by virtual alternatives. Only a quarter agreed non-client meetings would never be held virtually in future. However, 65% agreed or strongly agreed that the return of travel to pre-pandemic levels is not desirable. The greatest enablers to a return in order of priority will be – vaccination programmes, Covid testing and traveller confidence.  

ITM Revive Sponsor ACC Aviation highlighted corporates will turn to charter. Corporate shuttles may be a sensible solution for companies who want the ultimate safety for their employees. “The bespoke nature of air charter provides businesses with a reliable, long-term solution to reduction in scheduled connectivity when moving personnel,” suggested Richard Smith, director of Air Charter.