June 16, 2021

The Re-emergence of Travel

How ready is your organization to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and rules?

As the successful rollout of vaccination programs across developed nations begins the process of re-energizing economies, global mobility teams potentially find themselves at the foot of the compliance mountain with regards to border controls, travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. In many organizations, in-house or outsourced travel teams will field most questions relating to travel restrictions, but mobility will inevitably touch upon different aspects of these intertwined issues as well. In our recent blog post The Shape of Global Mobility Post Brexit, we share our concern that with the pandemic suppressing business travel, it is highly likely that many organizations have not fully taken account of the implications of the end of the freedom of movement rights that U.K. and EU nationals enjoyed before Brexit and that behaviors may not have changed.

Business travel compliance is only one aspect of mobility issues organizations are faced with. Different national approaches to permissible travel, based on opaque and inconsistent methods to calculate virus prevalence and vaccine protection, make for a complicated and frequently changing global scenario. This is perhaps epitomized by the U.K. government, with little forewarning, moving Portugal from green to amber in its traffic light system. Although European Union member states agreed last month to open borders to non-EU citizens, timings are varying according to each individual member state. Travel between the U.K. and the U.S. remains in the balance, though President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson did agree to establish working groups of public health experts to share data and set the criteria for opening travel between the two countries as quickly as possible, in their meeting ahead of the recent 47th G7 Summit in the U.K.

business traveler with mask in airport

For its part, the European Union is pushing ahead at some pace with its EU Digital COVID Certificate, designed to show that an individual has been vaccinated against COVID-19, tested negative, or recovered from an infection. While the regulation will apply as of July 1, with a phasing-in period of six weeks for the issuance of certificates for those countries that need additional time, seven European Union member states – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, and Poland – have all begun issuing EU certificates. According to a CNN report, an EU Commission spokesperson has confirmed “talks with the United States on a U.S. COVID-19 certificate which EU states could accept as equivalent.” In the meantime, each individual member state has autonomy to recognize proof of vaccination from a non-member state.

Major trading nations appear to be on a converging path towards re-opening, but there is clearly some way to go and inevitably there will be further stumbling blocks along the way, particularly with the emergence of possible vaccine-evading variants. As throughout the pandemic, both corporate and personal appetite for risk will play a role in the speed at which re-mobilization takes shape. Where some employees working with Sterling Lexicon and embarking on a new international assignment are keen to get moving, others have delayed their assignment start date to receive their second vaccine dose. HSBC highlighted in its recent first quarter update a £100 million reduction in marketing and travel costs. With employees also reaping the work-life balance rewards of virtual working and organizations realizing the benefits of a broader global talent pool, the future shape of global mobility will undoubtedly take an emergent form brought about by a variety of influencing factors.

Are you updating your global mobility policies in the face of new challenges, opportunities, and risks? Let us help – schedule a call with us today.


Stuart Jackson

Stuart Jackson

As Account Director at Sterling Lexicon, Stuart focuses on working with clients to optimize their global mobility solutions. Stuart has worked in global mobility for 19 years. His broad experience of working with different program sizes across a variety of industry sectors helps to bring success to clients' programs and wider business strategies. If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article or learn more about Sterling Lexicon, please do not hesitate to contact Stuart Jackson at stuart.jackson@sterlinglexicon.com.

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