The pandemic has impacted the corporate travel programs of almost every industry across the globe. The Life Science industry - comprising pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, and biomedical technologies companies – will be more in the spotlight than ever in 2021 as we continue to navigate the first major global pandemic of this scale since the emergence of modern life sciences.
In my view, supported by consultants including PWC and Pharmaboardroom, we’re seeing changes in the industry that will impact the future travel programs of life science companies:
- Affordability and accessibility
2020 was about the race to develop vaccines. 2021 will be about how to deliver those vaccines to the world’s population, especially in developing countries. The production and distribution of vaccines are critical to returning to travel in the life science marketplace.
There has been more focus on transparency when it comes to the pricing of medicines and vaccines. There’s a clear parallel in the corporate travel market where travel management companies (TMCs) and life science companies are looking for alternative pricing models to accommodate these changing needs. Given the uncertainty of how fast corporate travel will bounce back in life sciences, scalable pricing models that support growing and changing demand are key. As travelers look for more in-depth health and security information through various channels such as messaging, TMCs and customers need to work closely together to co-create their price models to meet the needs of life science companies. As such, data transparency has become an essential component in making the right decisions.
- Supply & supply chains
The wealthiest nations are ahead in securing the majority of the first available supplies of vaccines. To ensure a fair distribution on a global level it is vital to achieving a good balance between how to operate and collaborate with other suppliers in the market. The same applies in the corporate travel world where collaboration with suppliers is key in bringing relevant information, such as health & destination information, directly to travelers via the supply chain, so they can make an informed decision whether to travel.
- Environmental Social Governance (ESG)
The notion that companies have a responsibility to serve the broader community on an equal level as their shareholders is fast becoming the accepted norm. How life science companies respond to this and adapt their own business models will become even more important in 2021. From a travel management perspective, customers are looking for more real-time and end-to-end data, including virtual meetings & events data. Life science customers are subject to transparency regulations such as the Sunshine Act in the US. Together with health care professionals, these companies need to be able to report on very specific travel spend items to comply with regulations and avoid penalties. As travel has shifted from in-person to virtual meetings, companies are looking for data on transient and (virtual) meeting and events spend. TMCs like CWT can deliver such data to provide business essential insight to customers, enabling them to be compliant and cost-effective.
- Digital technologies
The life sciences industry has had to pivot and adopt new ways of working. To varying degrees, companies have been reluctant to embrace technology. But when challenged to do so by COVID-19 they discovered that it worked. Life Science companies have been talking about ‘adaptability’, ‘flexibility’ and ‘disruption’, and now, with digitalization at warp speed, they had to adapt, in a much faster way than they could have imagined. Life science companies and their employees are looking for support through the entire travel journey. From real-time, relevant booking information, such as health requirements and local government regulation, to real-time travel data to ensure the company can comply with duty-of-care.
Life science companies must be aware of the broader business, economic, social, and political forces that shape the external business environment around them and develop their corporate travel strategy in response to these forces. Companies can adapt their corporate travel strategies by taking a holistic approach and balancing duty-of-care with economic rationales, now more than ever before.