Aash Shravah is a former travel management company executive and now a podcast host at BusinessTravel360.com.
When it comes to the travel industry rebounding, it is important that we realize the damage that is being done when the pandemic is still being measured by looking at ‘cases.’ Of course, the use of ‘cases’ as a measurement is good, but that is so 2020. We needed this measurement when the pandemic was spreading and there was no answer for it. It is good to look at the ‘cases’ metric to understand the spread of the pandemic.
Another effective measurement is the rate of infection. To truly understand infections well, you must know about R0, also called R-naught. At first this phrase sounds cryptic and mathematical, and it is. It is a metric that measures the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case.
But much has changed in 2021, and much will continue to change as the year continues. There are some factors that should be considered.
- Vaccination. Vaccination rates will continue to improve over time. While it is true that we are currently dealing with hesitancy in more people accepting the vaccine, rest assured that it will change. The ability for humans to overcome the virus will improve either through the vaccine or natural immunity.
- Variations. The Covid-19 virus is here to stay. While many are thinking that somehow we can eliminate it, we can’t. Human nature and the ability of a virus to evolve almost guarantees that it is here to stay. What will change is our ability to deal with it and hold it at bay. Be warned that there will never be a situation where there are zero humans infected.
So, will there be cases? Sure. There will always be cases. However, the ability to overcome the virus will be more effective. So why measure cases? Why base decisions on the number of cases? Take this headline that is pushed out on a newsletter: “Global cases top 200 million as delta variant rages.”
Why is it important to know the case count anymore? Instead, we should measure the death toll as a percentage of population and R-naught to understand the pandemic. Keep in mind I am talking about it as we move forward, not in the context of the past. Because if we keep talking about cases, business travel will not recover to its full potential. The psyche of those making decisions in companies can never get past the numbers. There is too much at stake for a company in the form of lawsuits. One thing that we know is that companies are risk-averse.
What Should We Do?
If business travel is to improve, organizations such as the Global Business Travel Association, American Society of Travel Advisors and others must create a new way to measure the Covid-19 virus and not allow media companies to make those decisions. Theirs is a business of sensationalism. Everyone else, however, is trying to live normally and move forward. Measuring risk by case count will keep business travel suppressed for another one to two years. Businesses will struggle and will lose market share if someone does not take immediate action.
I call upon GBTA, ASTA or any global organization to establish a new norm of measuring risk in business travel. Business travelers have always been taking minimal risks when traveling. We need a metric that companies can use to understand where their employees can travel. A metric that does not take case count into consideration. I ask that advice be taken from the medical community in reaching this new metric.
As an industry, we missed the boat on this when the pandemic started and were not able to get ahead of it. The damage has been done. Let’s move forward and give our industry a chance by really assessing the ability to travel by measuring the virus the right way.
Business travelers and travel managers need us to help them. Let’s not let them down.