The importance of a reliable travel risk management policy

Do the business travellers in your company know who to call in case of an emergency when they’re abroad or away?

Whether travelling for a quick meeting to Cape Town or hopping on an international flight to a major conference that’s halfway across the globe, it is vital to travel with a reliable point of contact in case something goes wrong.

Those who travel for business face a unique set of risks. In most companies, about 20% of employees are either engaged in business travel or longer-term assignments. These numbers are set to rise substantially as markets develop. Air passenger numbers alone are expected to double to eight billion in the next 20 years, and many of those passengers will be corporate employees. 

That means more workers face a variety of risks and pain points, ranging from major incidents like earthquakes, to more commonplace events such as food safety scares and traffic accidents. Companies have legal and moral obligations to provide safety and security to their people as they travel on business. However, according to research conducted by International SOS, risk management plans today are very often out of step with the needs of the modern workforce.

Sally Napper, Security Specialist at International SOS and Control Risks, recently explained that almost half of decision makers expected that travel risks would increase in 2019. She explained that research revealed that the evolving travel habits of the modern workforce are being overlooked by many organisations. Ensuring policies stay relevant to the needs of a modern workforce helps to keep your people safer and better informed, and also demonstrates the continuing importance of adaptive risk management programmes – and could help win board approval and support for other initiatives.

While employees’ demands and expectations are continually evolving, travel policies don’t always reflect the changing needs of a modern workforce. For example, only a third (33%) of organisations cover cybersecurity in their travel policy, and just over a quarter (26%) cover considerations for female travellers.

Meanwhile, Dr. Doug Quarry, Group Medical Director, Information and Analysis at International SOS, explained how the assessment of travel health and safety must look at the individual. “It is not just about the destination; the personal profile of the traveller, including gender, age, sexual orientation, and mental health status, can change the risks they will face. Businesses that focus on ensuring their travel policies reflect a modern workforce will better meet their duty of care and sustainability,” he said.

A TMC can help companies and travellers overcome these travel risk challenges.

TMCs have a key role to play in supporting their clients’ duty-of-care responsibilities. Although the majority of safety-related incidents faced by business travellers tend to be low-risk, such as lost baggage, the range of risk is becoming broader. From theft leading to loss of sensitive company information up to major terrorist incidents.

Most TMCs are ramping up efforts to support clients with Travel Risk Management (TRM) solutions and the creation or revision of crisis management plans and response processes tailored to their clients’ structures and cultures.

Here are five crucial elements to take into consideration when putting together a Travel Risk Management Plan:

  1. Risk varies according to location, environment and circumstance. Make sure the risks in each location your travellers visit is visible (not just the life-threatening ones). Just knowing where is a traveller is doesn’t mean you have a workable plan in place to help when things go wrong. Make it clear to the traveller what those risks are and what measures are being taken in the interests of their safety.
  2. Prepare your travellers before they travel. Make sure they have the latest advice on vaccination requirements. Educate them on potential health risks, and what to do if they do fall ill while away on business.
  3. It is vital that health response plans cover extreme eventualities, such as a country closing its borders due to disease outbreak, but also more common risks and challenges, such as traffic accidents and personal theft. Travellers need to know what action to take and the support they will receive in these circumstances.
  4. Having a TRM plan is excellent, but response processes, communication channels and traveller perceptions need to be checked and reviewed regularly. If they don’t work, you could be in real trouble.
  5. Your TMC can work with you to review or implement your TRM solution and support your travelling employees with their individual Customer Crisis Plan.

If the company doesn’t have a plan for how to deal with any business travel disaster, now is the time to draw one up. When something happens and you don’t know who to call, the answer should be, without doubt, your TMC.

Nicole has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the Flight Centre Travel Group and now heads up FCM Travel Solutions as General Manager. Having joined the group in 2007 as a Team Leader at Student Flights, Nicole has focused her energies on empowering the people she leads to allow them to make their own decisions. Her wealth of experience, dedication and ability to adapt to an incredibly fast-paced travel industry environment has seen her appointed as the leader of Flight Centre’s largest corporate travel brand and travel technology innovator.