More companies restricted travel to areas affected by the coronavirus, including Italy, Japan and South Korea. Many are asking employees who recently travelled to those areas, as well as China, to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to their workplaces.
Hotel companies reported small numbers of event cancellations outside of Asia/Pacific. Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson said there had been "a handful" of such cancellations at his company's hotels, and that he expected it would "step up a little bit." That seems likely as many planners look to reschedule or live-stream their upcoming events.
Marriott was among the hotel chains expanding coverage of cancellation waivers. In addition to mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, it now lets customers cancel without penalty for stays in Japan, South Korea and the Italian regions centered on Milan and Venice.
In addition to flight suspensions on routes to China, many airlines trimmed or paused service to northern Italy and South Korea. Delta, for example, suspended service between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Seoul, and reduced frequencies from Atlanta, Detroit and Seattle. Though it operates no transoceanic routes, JetBlue waived all change and cancellation fees for new bookings between Feb. 27 and March 11. The airline said it wanted to give customers "confidence" they wouldn't be penalized for changing plans amid coronavirus concerns. The policy applies to all fare types, including those that normally do not permit changes.
American Airlines on Saturday said it waived change fees up to two weeks prior to travel for customers who buy tickets between March 1 and March 16.
Marriott reported an average increase in negotiated corporate rates of 1 percent to 2 percent versus last year. The company as of Feb. 26 completed about 80 percent of its negotiations for 2020. According to president and CEO Arne Sorenson, lodging supply and demand this year each are projected to increase 2 percent. Marriott expects leisure to outpace business transient, "as there has yet to be a step-up in business investment levels." Marriott's group sales for 2020 are strong, however, with bookings up 5.5 percent year over and year and revenue running higher by mid-single-digit percentages.
American Express Global Business Travel beefed up its lodging program. Rest Assured Solutions brings in GBT's exclusive rates at thousands of properties around the world as well as loyalty program rates from major chains, "more than 2 million" hotel properties via Booking.com and another 6 million homes and apartments from Booking, Expedia and WWStay. GBT will offer travellers lodging recommendations based on their companies' historical booking data through all channels, including the travel management company's mobile app. GBT's proprietary reshopping service backs a rate guarantee. Conferma Pay supports virtual payment and reconciliation for hotel stays.
TripActions now offers payment through virtual cards and individual plastic on the Visa network. It meshes with the TMC's travel booking system, comes with a 1.5 percent spending rebate and uses "AI-driven spend approvals" from audit automation company AppZen. Like other integrated travel, payment and expense solutions — several created recently through horizontal partnerships among providers — TripActions Liquid combines booking and payment data, offers spending controls and aims to make reconciliation easier for finance teams. TripActions raised a debt facility of up to $500 million to fund the product launch.
Travel and Transport now sends travellers trip-specific mental and physical health tips. Via pre-travel emails and mobile app messages, the TMC provides details on fitness facilities, parks and healthy restaurant options at or near travellers' hotels. It also sends recommendations for fighting jet lag. Travel and Transport said this year it would introduce more components of the wellness initiative, including tools for travel managers.
Green good. Egencia now offers sustainability consulting to all clients. They get carbon emissions reports for hotel stays and airline flights, with reporting for rail coming this spring. The TMC also helps clients make and assess travel policy adjustments (for example, favouring direct flights, eco-friendly hotels and hybrid cars), track carbon budgets across departments and benchmark their programs.
Compiled by the editors of TheCompanyDime.com.