Safety: views split on corporate attitudes

Do corporates do sufficient research on the risks in specific African destinations before sending their clients into the fray? Some say awareness of the dangers has increased but others feel the approach remains somewhat cavalier.

“From a South African perspective, I believe that we still have a long way to go in relation to duty of care, with our general ‘I’m sure we’ll be fine’ attitude rising to the fore and pushing travel risk management to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. Globally mandated programmes generally are far more focused on this element, but in my opinion, your average African/South African company does not place much, if any, emphasis on this,” says Monique Swart, founder of ABTA.

She says certain industries – such as oil and gas and the banking sectors – do better than others and display a stronger interest in risk management. “I believe this is an area that will take a lot more education in the coming years, with companies truly understanding the cost as well as various risk elements, including reputational, of not effectively applying duty-of-care principles to their staff travel programmes.”

Swart recently attended an event with some national corporates, where not putting a full management team on one aircraft, due to business continuity risks in the event of a plane crash, was discussed. “Not one of the 30 corporates in the room had considered this risk, and even when faced with it, the general response was: ‘Yes, but how likely is that to happen?’,” she says. 

City Lodge Hotel Group spokesman, Angus Macmillan, says there is no doubt that travellers are more aware than ever about conditions in countries they are travelling to, thanks to electronic news and social media. “However, there is never room for complacency. It is always advisable for travellers to get quality, up-to-date information on their destinations before setting out on a trip.”

Traveller awareness of safety has spurred many corporate companies to employ safety officers who travel to vet the security and emergency procedures at hotels, says Karin Sieberhagen, sales and marketing manager: Africa for Serena Hotels, only permitting their staff to stay at properties that meet stipulated criteria. 

African Sun sales and marketing director, Tariro Ndebele, says from enquiries received, a heightened sense of security is in play, attributable to prior research. Further, the continent is currently relatively safe. “To a large extent, if we look at Southern Africa, there are no ongoing conflicts, a situation that cannot be said of two decades back. Even as we move north, there are fewer conflicts comparatively, although of course any conflict is cause for concern, so the ideal would be total eradication. As a continent we could do better, although there has been a marked improvement in communication and raising awareness through the issuance of travel alerts.”

Sharon Nash, director: Travel Operations for Club Travel Corporate, believes that, with today’s technology and access to Club Travel partners, risks are easier to manage. In addition, corporate clients are more conscious of duty of care than ever before, consulting with their own local offices about the current situations on health and safety.

“We should never underestimate the infrastructure and resources that these corporate companies who send travellers into countries in Africa have available to them,” is the view of GBTA board member, Robyn Christie. “They are very well equipped and have a network of providers that ensures their passengers’ safety and security. I think travellers into those areas should also take responsibility to find out the details of what resources and support are available to them in the event they need them.”     

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