The last 2 years have brought a number of prominent incidents that captured the attention of the public. These included terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Istanbul as well as earthquakes which have hit Japan, Ecuador and Myanmar. All these incidents have affected people from all walks of life including locals, tourists as well as business travellers. Despite all this, a study by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) stated that on top of record breaking business travel spend in 2015 at USD 1.25 trillion, it is expected to further expand 5.8 percent by 2019.
In the aftermath of the recent bombings in Brussels, GBTA also mentioned that 28 percent reported their company either did not have a risk-management plan in place or they were unsure if there was one. Yet the concern of safe travel is not so much cataclysmic events with low probability, but more innocuous risks such as common ailments, crime, traffic accidents and theft among others. As such, it is imperative that companies put robust travel risk management policies in place that provide their business travellers with assistance in a crisis situation. In fact, a company’s lack of assistance to employees when they are traveling could create legal liability, even reputation damage, ultimately impacting the company’s bottom line.
In light of this, Bertrand Saillet, General Manager at FCM Travel Solutions South East Asia, shares some travel guidelines that companies can put in place to assure safety to their business travellers.
Travel risk management for your organisation
The social and ethical element of responsible travel management is no more a nice-to-have. With the increasingly competitive business environment, business travel is on the rise and duty of care with health and safety policies is more important than ever. Furthermore, collaboration between departments within a company (i.e., HR, legal, medical, security and procurement) is necessary to establish a successful and comprehensive program to ensure traveling personnel safety and comfort.
Once an understanding is established on its importance, businesses must identify how this programme should be developed and more importantly, executed. For example, does the company have a plan in place that covers all the risks their travellers may experience? Are there policies that have been clearly spelt to protect both the traveller and the employer if something untoward were to happen? Are other external organisations that are part of this programme that can complement crucial aspects of this programme, such as travel arrangements, medical assistance, accommodation, transportation etc.? Are employees able to easily access the information in this programme and are they aware of how it affects them? Lastly, is there a system in place for organisations to track their business travellers while they are overseas as an additional measure to monitor the safety of their travellers? All these are some of the important points organisations should take note of when preparing a travel risk management programme.
Educate your business travellers
Many companies make the mistake of assuming their travellers know the do’s and don’ts prior to and during overseas business trip. For example, some employees may make independent travel arrangements without even knowing what’s within their travel policy. Additionally, other areas of education can include online awareness courses on general travel risks, how to avoid and reduce medical risks, specific country preparation and intercultural training as well as pre-trip destination risk assessments among others.
Though it can be a significant undertaking and tedious for those that have yet to develop this as part of their employee management, it is becoming increasingly important. In fact, a new survey by GBTA ultimately shows that business travellers, for the most part, want to adhere to company rules and guidelines and prefer booking through preferred channels, and strive to be in compliance. As such, the onus is on companies to make sure their business travellers are as thoroughly prepared as possible when on overseas business trips.
Use technology to your advantage
Technology is powering individuals with up-to-date information at their fingertips everywhere they go. There should be no exception for companies sending out business travellers. One emerging trend is the use of mobile apps to help business travellers access real time information regarding their trips.
For example, upon leaving the airport and getting onto a taxi, a travel management mobile app could possibly tell the traveller what roads to avoid, to ensure smooth travel to their next location. Travel apps such one from FCM Travel Solutions allows participating clients’ employees to “check-in” at a location, so the company is able to identify where their employees are which could be crucial in high-risk locations. Such apps are also able to remind frequent travellers of upcoming trips and share real-time information about the locations they are travelling to. A company’s ability to harness such digital capabilities will go a long way in providing a more enjoyable travel experience for its employees.
Moving Forward in Business Travel
Business travellers are now more sensitive as new types of threats surface in this day and age. Armed with knowledge of these risks, they now expect organisations to take necessary steps to ensure they are protected. As such, even companies with a good track record in safety may have gaps in their existing travel management policies and should be mindful of them in order not to be caught unaware.
In a globalised economy, business travel is not slowing down anytime soon and it is now up to organisations to ensure that a robust travel risk management policy is put in place to protect the interest of both the company as well as its more important asset – the business traveller.