What will the relocation service sector look like post Covid-19?

Simon Johnston, Chairman of the ARP, and long-standing member of EuRA reflects with his own views on how relocation services are evolving in response to the coronavirus pandemic and looks at the future for relocation consultants.

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The media, on all channels is presenting us with what the current situation is regarding issues around the lockdown, reporting on the closure of most businesses’ offices and the difficulties that many are facing. However, there seems to be less talk about what the near future could look like for most of us and of course, almost nothing when it comes to the relocation industry.There are no helpful words that can express how severely this global pandemic has impacted the mobility industry over the past few months, however there are early, optimistic signs and reasons to be positive over what comes next.Estate agents have opened across England with the same to follow for the rest of the UK. Many of the relocation companies I speak to in the UK are sensing that it really was the pause, not the stop button that was pressed and our clients, corporate domestic and international employers, are looking for guidance as to the best and safest ways to relocate their assignees.

Virtual home search will become the backbone of destination service provision

The leading solution is of course ‘Virtual Home Search’, which is perhaps nothing new. The difference is that now it has clearly come of age and a family of variations around this will be not only useful, but almost certainly the backbone, of all home search services for 2020 and probably for years to come.
The safety of the assignee, our own staff & the letting agent remains paramount. There are clear best practices now becoming understood by all as to how, with the best use of PPE, social distancing and minimising the number of property visits, alongside other initiatives we can safeguard all concerned. ARP members will be able to carry on providing world class relocation support, albeit with some substantial adjustments in place.

Cost-effect and valued services that support ‘Duty of Care’ for assignees

There remain areas where our assistance will continue to be highly valued. A quality relocation company will ensure that all our clients save time and money over this period of uncertainty. A strong awareness of the overall market conditions, across not only a country but to the smallest regions, will allow clients to plan their assignees relocations in more efficient ways than perhaps was always the case. Add in our commitment to providing a ‘Duty of Care’ for the assignees wellbeing, the relocation industry can assist those settling into a new location in ways that truly add value to business and the assignee.Perhaps, the near future will trigger a wave of small but impactful enhancements and valued services. The relocation companies’ involvement may be introduced earlier in the mobility process and our impact felt for longer. There are reasons to believe that we all can shine over the next year or more if our willingness to adapt and innovation remains central to our thinking and planning.

Rallying support for the relocation sector in the UK

The ARP (Association of Relocation Professionals) is calling on all those in the sector to:
  • Contact their MP, or local government party to highlight the vital importance that all areas of this industry support
An ARP Survey has been undertaken to establish the scope and size of the relocation industry in the UK and the financial impact that the sector has on the wider economy.Even without taking into account, the rental sums involved for the assignees the sector relocates, the industry is still estimated to be worth around £6 Billion to the UK economy, Simon Johnson concludes in his role as Chairman of ARP (Association of Relocation Professionals).“Other industries who would have the same financial impact would be recognised and supported in more expansive ways. However, as the majority of the companies within relocation are SME, there is not the same awareness or recognition. It is our hope that we can start changing this over the course of 2020 & beyond,” he explains.  “In a world where Duty of Care is even more important for relocating assignees to ensure their safely, the support of world leading relocation companies and other core services is needed more than ever” he states.Speaking at the recent Virtual Relocate Awards Ceremony, Tad Zurlinden, CEO of ARP and EuRA said, “ I’m delighted to be here today to represent the ARP and EURA at the Relocate Awards. We are working towards getting better governmental recognition for the global mobility sector. Our services are vital to enable business to flourish and economies to grow and they will be all the more important as we recover from the current global crisis”.The ARP are calling for the following from the UK government:
  • Company staff relocating to the UK for business purposes to be given additional support/recognition/guidelines to enable them to travel. Essential for UK companies post Covid-19 to restructure & grow, as well as encourage maximum inward investment post Brexit
  • Provide guidelines for correct coronavirus (COVID-19) virus protocol for relocation staff conducting on site relocation and removal services within the UK. The industry requires either government approved or stated best practice to allow home searches and removals to be undertaken safely
  • Relocation industry to obtain equal recognition to the letting & sales estate agents, with similar support & guidelines to be able to trade safely to allow company employees to locate & secure new homes 
  • A grant to relocation companies, based on staffing levels to cover fixed costs that cannot be reduced, cancelled or isn’t covered by other government measures
  • Review of the £8,000 tax relief for corporate relocations into the UK to be reviewed in line with inflation since first introduced
To find out how you can lend your support contact Simon Johnson or Tad Zurlinden:Simon Johnson is CEO of Icon Relocation. He can be reached at Tad Zurlinden can be reached at or