23 Aug 2017

Today, in a world that’s effectively a global village, pioneering companies are sending an increasing number of travellers to conduct business in relatively unknown, emerging markets where risks to personal safety can be high. The employees of more conservative companies doing business in traditional, well-heeled, well-known markets are also increasingly susceptible to risk; as terrorist incidents in countries such as France, Belgium, England and, more recently, Spain, have indicated.

This impacts the cost of travel insurance and on-the-ground security. Incidents negatively affecting travellers also carry associated costs including flight delays/cancellations, emergency accommodation, hospital fees and the evacuation of employees from problematic areas.

Should a company’s travellers be involved in a serious health, safety or security incident, the company potentially faces several, serious consequences such as substantial legal, financial and/or reputational damage.

Therefore before sending employees to an area, official travel warnings should be considered very carefully. Travel warnings are only issued when companies should consider whether they ought to go into a country at all.  Examples of reasons for issuing a travel warning might include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist activity. Travel warnings remain in place until the situation changes; some have been in effect for years.

An official travel alert is primarily issued for short-term events. They might include an election season that is predicted to destabilise the country, a health alert like an outbreak of Zika virus, or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks.

Travel managers are recognising that duty of care towards their travelling employees is their responsibility and are giving the safety and well-being of their travelling employees top priority, often ahead of cost-saving. They are adding travel risk management (TRM) programmes to their travel policies; TRMs that are as dynamic and adaptable as the risks themselves.

“Finger-on-the-pulse, up-to-date travel alerts are integral to the efficacy of TRM programmes,” says Wally Gaynor, Managing Director, Club Travel Corporate. ”By partnering with a reputable travel management company (TMC) that has the required expert human resources, technology and experience, the company is able to alert their travellers when and where a situation arises and how to react appropriately.  For example, the TMC can help track all affected travellers using booking data, contact information and, where approved, GPS location.”

A good TMC will have access to specialist travel security providers who push the right advice to the right travellers at the right time. The TMC’s technological acumen, especially mobile, is a highly efficient way to alert travellers, particularly because it can be used for two-way communication. In a serious incident, a mobile alert can be sent and the travellers asked to confirm they received the message and whether they need assistance.

The TMC’s technology should also provide travellers with direct access to medical and security assistance if required, live alerts and useful information regarding their destination. And if an incident arises, the TMC will book, change or cancel flights while the TMC’s travel management app enables business travellers to change or cancel meetings from their preferred devices; computers, tablets, mobile and smartphones, or even smartwatches and wearables.

“Duty of care, in which travel alerts play an integral role, is today more than a company’s moral obligation, it’s a legal requirement,”  says Gaynor.  “By adding a carefully constructed, dynamic travel risk management programme to their travel policies and partnering with the right TMC, travel managers provide the best possible risk mitigation; for their travellers and their companies.”