Irish companies restrict travel over coronavirus fears

Large number of companies rule out business travel unless strictly necessary

The coronavirus could potentially cost the business travel industry $46.6 billion per month, according to research. Photograph: Getty Images

The coronavirus could potentially cost the business travel industry $46.6 billion per month, according to research. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Companies in Ireland and in other countries are curtailing business travel across Europe and Asia unless strictly necessary due to the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the illness known as Covid-19.

Iseq heavyweight CRH introduced travel restrictions across the group to “essential” trips only, chief financial officer Senan Murphy told reporters on Friday as the company, which has about 85,000 employees globally, reported full-year figures.

“Management teams in a number of locations are keeping an eye on breaking news,” he said, in order to keep staff safe.

State body IDA Ireland, which is responsible for attracting foreign investment, is holding off on travel unless strictly necessary.

“IDA Ireland guidelines to staff advise that, from a business perspective, non-essential travel to any country currently affected by the coronavirus should not be undertaken,” a spokeswoman said.

A number of the agency’s clients, who did not wish to be named, also said they were restricting travel where appropriate.

Business group Ibec said it has received a number of queries from members in relation to business travel.

Concerns

“Ibec is advising member companies to stay up to date with the advice of the public health authorities and the Department of Foreign Affairs, when considering business travel,” a spokesman said.

“We are aware that, depending on sector and business requirements, some companies are deciding to restrict business travel to trips that are strictly necessary,” he added.

Online recruiter Indeed, whose more than 1,000 Irish employees were recently asked to work from home over concerns that a staff member in Singapore had been exposed, has also taken steps to alleviate the possibility of coming into contact with the cornoavirus.

“Indeed’s number one priority is protecting the health and safety of our employees and the people we serve. As Covid-19 spreads, we have responded with a variety of measures to help protect our global workforce including office and region-specific travel directives, temporary office closures, and work from home recommendations,” a spokeswoman said.

“While for the most part it remains business as usual, we’re continually evaluating the crisis and adjusting tactics based on evolving information to keep our workforce safe,” she added.

Global travel

New figures from the Global Business Travel Association published this week suggest the virus could potentially cost the industry $46.6 billion (€42.4 billion) per month. That translates into $559.7 billion (€508.7 billion) annually, or 37 per cent of the sector’s total 2020 forecasted global spend.

Some 95 per cent of respondents to the group’s survey said their companies had cancelled or suspended “most” or “all” business trips to China. Some 23 per cent of respondents said their company had done likewise for some trips to European countries.

Nestle this week told employees to avoid travelling until at least mid-March. A similar restriction is in place at L’Oreal.

Swiss authorities on Friday banned events that draw more than 1,000 people, meaning that next week’s Geneva International Motor Show won’t go ahead. Earlier this month, the organisers of Mobile World Congress, the telecoms industry’s largest annual gathering, cancelled the event in Barcelona after a large number of companies said they would not be attending due to concerns over Covid-19.