“Why buy travel software when no one is traveling?” – Frequently asked question of 2020

“We love your software. How will we ever find time to adopt or switch?” – Frequently asked question in every year prior to 2020

The “no money/more time” and “no time/more money” higher education experience is frustratingly common, however, we see this as a false dichotomy. More important and relevant questions are obscured by those (understandably) reactionary questions driven by short-term concerns and constraints.

Leaders with long-term vision are asking:  

  • What is possible now that wasn’t possible before?
  • Will study abroad, research, off-campus internships, and other forms of university related travel return with a trickle or a boom? When?
  • What unique capabilities does our team have to make our office and operations more efficient for the future?
  • What must be true for us to achieve our pre-COVID goals (or our new post-COVID goals) once people can travel again?
  • How must we evolve to meet the standards & expectations of our stakeholders in this moment?
  • Can we re-imagine our roles to be more creative and less administrative?
  • Who might we partner with internally and externally to strengthen our ability to survive and thrive? 

It is a difficult reality that some offices and organizations will not survive this no-travel era. It is also true that some will survive, but only by reducing staff and the operating budget. 

It is also true that some offices are quietly preparing to thrive and doing so by investing in and reorganizing human, social, and technical capital. 

A few examples from our contacts in higher education in the past few months: 

  • One large public university in the midwest is absorbing study away programs, adopting new technology, and building new internal campus communication between education abroad and travel registration and tracking
  • A university system in the south is deciding whether or not to bundle travel tracking technology + medical insurance and assistance services in an expanded RFP
  • A European-based study abroad company built augmented reality tools after COVID with new technology as a response to program cancellations and discovered that Italian language faculty were eager to incorporate their content into their coursework
  • A university consortium and a global exchange consortium are both evaluating which travel tracking software to adopt in early 2021 to track students moving forward, vowing to never again be caught building manual travel-tracker spreadsheets in the future like they did in COVID response
  • An assistance provider is finding new technology partners to streamline 
  • Program providers the world over are investing in technologies to support virtual global programing and discovering new program models to diversify their portfolio & participant base. 

No one is traveling right now, however, many higher education institutions are viewing this time as an opportunity to reimagine the future of academic travel. 

Allan Goodman, President of the Institute for International Education, was quoted recently in an Inside Higher Education article, saying: 

What we do know is when pandemics end, there’s tremendous pent-up demand. All of our records show in the past that when it’s safe to resume travel, we’re dealing with surges of students that have deferred, that set their plans aside, that were granted deferments and want to come. I think there’s no reason to suspect that at the end of this pandemic we won’t see the same thing.”

No one knows how soon we can return to safe travel fully, however, with the US election behind us and promising early results from vaccination studies, the end of the travel lockdown is now in sight.

Preparing for the future of travel by leveling up your systems

At Via TRM, we use over 50 different free and paid software systems to power our organization, and we are constantly evaluating our tech stack. What we know from experience is that implementing software systems is indeed the most difficult when our core services are in high-demand. 

The best time to evaluate, compare, run ROI calculations, decide on and implement a new software product is during a low-volume time when our staff resources are most available. 

If you are ready to take the first step in preparing your organization for the future of travel, download our free Software Decisions Workbook to define goals, calculate ROI on systems consolidation or adoption, for your own organization.