Transatlantic travel is an essential part of trade and investment; it is time to get it started again.

CEO Update – August 2020

Fill out our 1-minute, anonymous survey on transatlantic air travel during COVID-19: click here

DE - Cirlce

Duncan Edwards
Chief Executive Officer
BritishAmerican Business

Approaching five months since the majority of BAB’s members shifted to remote working for most of their office-based people it has been remarkable how the business world has adapted to such a dramatic shift in working behavior. The internet connectivity and the software tools that are used generally and specifically by different industries have been extraordinarily resilient in the face of the kind of stress test that was not conceivable to risk managers. In our own small way at BAB we have shifted our engagement with members from in-person meetings to catch ups on Teams and our convening over breakfast or dinner, to webinars and virtual round tables with speakers and audiences connecting from home.

A lot has been written about the unforeseen positive outcomes from the remote working phenomenon; an end to tiresome commuting, more time with family, better, more regular internal comms, and a removal of distance as a reason for not joining an event or meeting that you would like to be at. We have certainly found that more of the most senior executives have been able to join our programs when they know its just an hour and don’t have to factor in the travel time or whether they are even in the same city or country. It is likely that much of what we are all doing now will become custom and practice when the immediate health crisis is over.

I say much, but definitely not all. The value of in-person interaction in business (as in life) is enormous and is a crucial factor underpinning the status of the UK-U.S. trade and investment corridor as the most valuable in the world. Meeting new and existing customers, interviewing and reviewing suppliers, really getting to know your people, prospecting for deals, the serendipitous encounter which turns into a fantastic lead, properly understanding cultural nuances… these are all things which can only happen if you are physically there. Which is why it is so important that national and local government on both sides of the Atlantic, working with the airlines, airports and other stakeholders, find a way to re-open the air routes for business and leisure customers, without a quarantine requirement, as soon as possible.  Let’s start with New York to London!
Logic suggests that the increased risk from travel between places with similar rates of infection is low and if this is coupled with the kind of measures that the industry is suggesting, pre-flight tests, post-flight tests, mandatory face coverings, temperature checks, aircraft and airport cleansing and all the rest, surely the increased risk to either country is minimal. And, if not now, then when? What are the measurable criteria that need to be hit for the UK and U.S. quarantine requirement and the U.S. travel ban to be lifted in the future? Clearly there are businesses and industries for whom this is an existential crisis, the airlines, the airports and the businesses built around the ecosystem, and for these businesses action is desperately needed to save as many jobs as possible; but there is a wider need to get the corridors open again for the benefit of all before trade and investment inevitably starts to decline.

We are taking a break from our events during August but we already have a packed program lined up for the Autumn starting in September which you can see here. In the meantime, please accept our best wishes for a relaxing summer break if you are having one… I think we are going to need all our energy for what is to come!