Minimising Business Travel Risk

Understanding what it takes to make business travel policies work

Key Takeaway

Given the fact that business travel is still as relevant as ever, the successful organisation is one that ensures a robust travel risk management policy to protect both the organisation and its people. Here are three ideas to explore.

Despite the number of prominent incidents that have come to the forefront in recent years, ranging from terrorist attacks from Paris to Brussels and earthquakes that have hit Japan, Ecuador and Myanmar, travel is booming. 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.


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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 the issue of cataclysmic events with low probability, but more innocuous risks such as common ailments, crime, traffic accidents and theft among others. Health risks, for one, increase with frequent business travel, especially long-haul travel.

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.

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 travelling could create legal liability, even reputation damage, ultimately impacting the company’s bottom line.

Here are three ideas that companies can implement to assure their employees that the risks inherent in their business travel have been considered and addressed.

  1. Craft a strategy for travel risk management

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 programme to ensure travelling personnel safety and comfort.

Are employees able to easily access the information in this programme and are they aware of how it affects them?

Health scares, political upheaval and natural disasters

Once an understanding as to its importance has been established, businesses must identify how this programme should be developed and more importantly, executed. These could include things like :

  • Does the company have a plan in place that covers all the risks their travellers may experience? Yes, it would seem that frequent business travellers do age faster;
  • 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?
  1. Make education a key component of your travel risk management

Many companies make the mistake of assuming their travellers know the do’s and don’ts prior to and during overseas business trips. For example, some employees may make independent travel arrangements without even knowing what’s within their travel policy. Therefore, educational initiatives that spell out what can and can’t be done are useful.

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.

Is it urgent or important?

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.

  1. 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 into a taxi, a travel management mobile app could possibly tell the traveller what roads to avoid, to ensure smooth travel to their next location. For example, a travel app 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 to the new types of threats that surface in this day and age. Armed with the 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.

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Boston airport image courtesy Sara Haj-Hassan of freeimages.com
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