THE BUSINESS TRAVEL Coalition released a number of surveys this spring to take corporate America's temperature on the impact of the severe acute respiratory syndrome on their corporate travel policies.
For its first three surveys conducted in April, BTC found corporate travel bans to certain Asian destinations jumping from 24 percent, to 58 percent, to 61 percent. In addition to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam, participants mentioned Taiwan, Toronto, the whole Asia-Pacific region, and Thailand as being included in travel bans.
A survey conducted April 15 and 16 found that the majority of corporate travel and purchasing managers believe SARS really is as bad as it sounds in the newspapers. Sixty-five percent said they didn't think the media was overreacting to the SARS epidemic. Only 1 percent said they were making no SARS-related travel policy decisions.
To replace travel-related business, respondents said they were increasing their use of videoconferencing (67 percent), teleconferencing (65 percent), Web conferencing (43 percent), and webcasting (28 percent).
For employees who work in Asian countries, policies included banning travel among Asian destinations, and not allowing employees based in affected countries to travel to company sites in other areas. Twenty-four percent said they are requiring employees who are returning to the U.S. from a trip to Asia to work from home for a period of time before coming into the office, and 18 percent are demanding that these employees get a clean bill of health before heading back to work.
When asked how the airline response has been to the SARS concern, a whopping 66 percent said airlines had not provided sufficient information or were dismissive of the issue. Only 34 percent rated the airlines as concerned and proactive when it comes to SARS. As one respondent summed it up, “The airlines are concerned about their reduced revenues, not about the welfare of their passengers.” Still, none of the 137 participating organizations reported an increase in the use of charter jets, which indicates that the main concerns are about SARS on the ground, not in the air.
For those who want up-to-the-minute SARS news, BTC also launched a Web site to disseminate information, news, and analysis: www.btctravelogue.com. Designed for corporate travel managers, human resource executives, corporate security staff, travel management companies, industry associations, educational institutions, and news organizations, the site includes a roundup of the latest news articles, official SARS sites, BTC surveys, links to other news outlets, and a discussion forum.
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