Travel buyers have been advised to “remain flexible and agile” to deal with the potential disruption caused by a no-deal Brexit.
With the UK set to leave the EU on 29 March and no sign of an end to the political impasse over a potential deal, the subject was top of the agenda during a conference session on Brexit and the Global Risk Outlook at the Business Travel Show in London.
Philip Stewart, founder of risk and security consultancy Tapis Intelligence, said: “The frustration is over how disorderly this whole thing has been handled which has prevented businesses from preparing properly. There are so many ‘we don’t knows’.
“Travel managers need to stay on the front foot and have to be agile. You have to remain flexible in approach and make sure you communicate with staff on a regular basis.”
Rudiger Bruss, global category manager, travel and mobility services, for tyre firm Continental, added: “There’s very little you can do in preparations because it’s so fluid. You should be ready for something that may come up – there’s no checklist for this.”
Fellow buyer Gehan Colliander, global head of travel for Boston Consulting Group, said the key for buyers when tackling any Brexit-related disruption was to “communicate, communicate, communicate”.
“It’s important to pull out reports on a regular basis and assess the level of impact on your organisation,” she added.
Florian Storp, head of the business travel committee at the German travel association DRV, said: “Keep calm and don’t panic – follow the news and make resasonable decisions.”
While the panellists agreed that Brexit would increase the levels of inconvenience for business travellers, they had different views on how it could affect prices.
Continental’s Rudiger Bruss predicted that “costs will be going down because demand will plummet” to the UK if there is a no-deal Brexit. He added that his company would be trying to avoid using UK airport hubs such as Heathrow “as far as possible” as a precaution.
But DRV’s Florian Storp said he expected a “slight increase” in travel costs as he did not think there would be a drop in the number of transactions between the UK and Europe.
“We expect the same level of traffic to the UK and through the UK,” he added. “A lot of arrangements are being prepared in the background – the EU and UK have prepared arrangements on cross-border processes and the non-usage of visas.”
An electronic poll carried out at the session found that 40 per cent of delegates thought the UK would not even leave the EU in 2019, while 31 per cent predicted that the UK would leave without a deal and 29 per cent thought the country would leave with a deal.
Nearly half of the audience (49 per cent) said they expected levels of travel to stay the same after Brexit, while 37 per cent said there was likely to be a reduction in travel and only 14 per cent said it would be increasing.