Business travel is inherently risky. We’re not just talking about the kind of risks that hit the headlines – such as terrorism, natural disasters and civil unrest – more common risk factors include infectious diseases, lost passports, road accidents and petty crime. What’s more, the level of risk appears to be increasing, with research by Ipsos MORI revealing that 80% of businesses had to modify travel itineraries in response to traveller health or security concerns in 2016.
It is the daunting responsibility of every employer, large or small, to try to ensure the safety of their travellers in a world where risk factors and travel volumes are both on the rise. To aid in this endeavour, NYS Corporate’s Leanne Fowler has shared below her 5-Point Guide to Travel Risk Management. This guide was inspired by the excellent presentations delivered at last week’s ITM Risk Management Summit, as well as NYS Corporate’s own experience and ISO 27001 accredited procedures.
1. Update Your Travel Policy
The GBTA’s 5-pillars of Travel Risk Management highlight the importance of developing and implementing an appropriate Health, Safety and Security Policy. If you do not have a travel policy in place at the moment, developing this needs to be your first priority. It is no small task, but your Travel Management Company should be able to advise and assist you. We also recommend involving as many of your internal stakeholders in the development process as possible; these may include your board/executives, HR, legal team, facilities, and of course the travellers and travel bookings themselves. Their unique perspectives and experiences will help ensure your policy is comprehensive, and shared ownership promotes buy-in when the policy is implemented.
If you do have a policy in place, take a moment to consider whether it is truly up-to-date. As International SOS emphasized at the summit, the travel industry is evolving and we need to evolve with it to keep travellers safe. A travel policy developed as recently as two years ago may not take into consideration the risks inherent to newer trends such as…
- The Sharing Economy: With many business travellers now self-booking Airbnb, Uber and Lyft, travel managers needs to consider how they will approach shared economy services. The sharing economy may be cheap and cheerful, but it also promotes leakage (which has implications for duty-of-care and traveller tracking) and encourages potentially unsafe travel practices, such as staying in accommodation which is not accredited or regulated, travelling in cars which are not registered taxis, etc.
- Bleisure: It is becoming increasingly popular (particularly among millennials) to combine business with leisure. After all, who wouldn’t want to extend that business trip to Prague by tagging a luxury weekend break on the end? But this raises concerns regarding duty of care, travel insurance, liability and more. For example, if the bleisure traveller has opted to arrange their own hotel accommodation for the weekend, who is responsible if they are out-booked? If a terrorist attack takes place, will that traveller be included within your company’s Traveller Tracking?
- Social Media: It is now standard practice for people to announce their travel plans on social media, but this can put travellers at greater risk and may invalidate some travel insurance policies. It is always a good idea to educate travellers about the dangers of sharing this information online. You may even wish to mandate against sharing travel plans on social media.
2. Consider the Individuals
Who are your travellers? Are they men, women, LGBT, disabled, young, first-time travellers, regular travellers, expats…? Health, safety and security requirements vary according to the individual, with some groups being at greater risk than others in specific places. At the ITM summit, Maiden Voyage made a strong argument in favour of gender specific travel policies, which take into account the legal and cultural restrictions women face in some countries, and are considerate of the fact that women travellers are at greater risk of physical, verbal and sexual assault. According to the Women in Business Travel Report 2016, 31% of women have suffered sexual harassment while travelling and 70% believe more should be done to ensure female traveller safety. For this reason, NYS Corporate have a Lone Female Traveller Policy designed to ensure that women travellers feel safe and secure. This includes checks at hotels to ensure that they have: a discreet check-in process (which does not announce room numbers), double-lock doors, well-lit car parks, can offer female travellers bedrooms that are first floor or higher, etc.
3. Be Reliably Informed
Ensure that you and your travellers have access to relevant, up-to-the-minute travel advice from a consistent and reliable source, such as your Travel Management Company or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This should include advice on visa requirements, vaccinations and health, level of risk and live travel alerts. Interactive travel maps, such as this one by International SOS, can help identify any high risk countries you may prefer your travellers to avoid, or take special precautions when visiting. Again, you need to take into account who your travellers are. Business women travelling alone may be a target in countries where a businessman passes by untroubled. In 74 nations across the world lesbian and gay relationships are criminalised, and LGBT traveller may be at risk of state sponsored homophobia, entrapment and arrest. This is not dependent on the individual’s behaviour while in the country – Maiden Voyage report that there have been incidences of arrest based on evidence extracted from social media accounts and mobile devices.
4. Know Where Your People Are
The essential first-step to ensuring your travellers are safe is knowing where they are. Ideally, you need access to live, online tracking software that displays all delegates and travellers on a single interactive map (as this NYS tool does). This should be a fast and efficient system accessed directly by yourself and your Travel Management Company, which will enable you to instantly identify any travellers who may be affected by an incident.
5. Be Prepared
We recommend having a Crisis Response Plan in place so your team know what action to take if an incident occurs which could affect the safety of your travellers (such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster). This should be led by a designated team within your organisation or your Travel Management Company. The plan should include an agreed process to: a) identify any travellers who may be affected (e.g., through a Traveller Tracking Tool), b) ensure their safety and c) make alternative travel arrangements as needed. This streamlined process should be completed within 30 minutes of an incident occurring, and we recommend conducting “dry runs” to ensure all stakeholders are confident in their role. NYS Corporate have an industry-leading crisis response process in place as part of our ISO 27001 certification, and would be happy to provide advice you should you need any further guidance.