Tuesday 21 February 2017

GUEST BLOG: Do travel risk management programmes adequately address personal travel risk?

Since launching our latest animations that provide travel safety tips for Women and LGBT travellers we seem to have stumbled into an area of travel risk management that many programmes don’t want or don’t know how to tackle; namely personal travel risk.

Training and educating in regard of personal travel risk is perceived as being fraught with complications; not least because travel policies and procedures are generally based on home-country legislation, attitudes and cultures rather than the reality of the situation at the destination.  Many policies therefore treat all travellers as equal and it is often easier to stick with this assumption for the whole risk management process and assume personal travel risk is equal.

To complicate the issue further the programme owner can’t make guesses or assumptions about what personal travel risks an individual employee may face.  If we can’t assume the gender, sex or religion of an employee, it is very difficult to provide advice or training equal to the risks they might face in a location. 

Very often the benchmark for traveller equality is a middle aged, straight, white male; the demographic that probably faces the least personal risk of all travellers. Subsequently the procedures, risk assessment, education, training and support we offer individuals is based on this ‘least at-risk’ population. This benchmark means that the ‘most at-risk’ in our travelling populations can be let down on the duty of care owed to them.

If a business trip is being organised to a country where women are not treated equally to men and homosexuality can be punishable by death, should the travel risk management and individual traveller risk assessment not be based around the most vulnerable in your travelling population? All travellers should be provided with enough information to make their own risk assessment of whether they will conduct this trip or whether the dangers are too great. As we can’t make assumptions about any individual is it not justified that the lowest common denominator should be the most at-risk in your organisation?

On first appearance it seems strange but personal risk is probably lowest in hostile environments where the everyday dangers and the protective measures put in place to prevent these dangers almost completely nullify personal risk. I bring this up because all organisations have very clear travel policies for these locations, however, some lower risk countries may present an equally dangerous environment for a traveller who is oblivious to the fact that their fundamental being or lifestyle may not be culturally accepted or even illegal at their destination.

We rarely choose where we travel for business and perhaps it is time to look at  personal risk as we do much more tangible risks, such as kidnap, crime or natural disasters. If the destination poses elevated risk for any individuals in your travelling population, everyone receive the education and training to help them make informed decisions about whether they are OK to travel and what precautionary measures they may need to take. 

In my experience the least at-risk would probably benefit from this blanket education; not only to remind them about travel essentials, but also to make them more considerate of their colleagues concerns if travelling in a group.

This post was written by Saul Shanagher of beTravelwise, who are exhibiting at this week's Business Travel Show. You can still register for a free visitor pass at www.businesstravelshow.com.  

Monday 20 February 2017

In conversation with… Mel Gargagliano, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

In conversation with… Mel Gargagliano, head of EMEA Commercial Cards, Global Transaction Services, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

1.     Why is the Business Travel Show an important event for travel buyers and managers?
Over recent years, the travel manager’s role has evolved and become more complex. Challenged by the fast-evolving nature of business travel, today’s travel manager has to ensure that his or her organisation adapts to changing employee needs whilst simultaneously reducing expenses and creating efficiencies. The Business Travel Show provides a useful networking opportunity to learn from leading industry players.  

2.     What is one key factor that will impact the business travel industry this year?
Disruptive technology is having a huge impact on the industry. For example, many web-based firms or ‘platforms’ which enable the exchange of a service not directly owned by the platform – such as taxis and accommodation – are establishing a strong foothold in the business travel space; and many companies are seeking ways to include them in their travel policies.

3.     Is allowing employees to add leisure travel to a business trip a cost benefit or a burden?
Research1 shows that eight out of 10 business travellers add personal leisure time exploring their destinations – or what we like to call, ‘bleisure’ travel. This is smart as it means that companies can save money by taking advantage of leisure over business fares. It also improves employee satisfaction. A variety of payment solutions that cover end-to-end travel costs can support bleisure travel, including individual corporate travel & entertainment and virtual cards.

4.     What is the advantage of using virtual cards?
Virtual cards allow companies to capture more detailed financial data. This makes centralising travel spend much easier, helps firms to drive cost savings, and improves reconciliation. Additionally, centralisation means travellers do not need to spend time manually reconciling their individual travel expenses.

5.     How can travel managers and buyers cope with the increased pressure of reduced costs, without compromising the business travel experience?
A growing number of finance and travel managers are finding ways to turn the VAT expense associated with foreign spend into an opportunity. This is because VAT – unlike other tax types – can entitle businesses to reclaims. According to a recent survey2, a staggering $20 billion per annum in potentially reclaimable spend is left unclaimed by organisations. This is an efficient way to offset increasing business travel expenses.
6.     Time for a personal question – you travel a lot – what’s your favourite business travel destination?
Dubai. I had the pleasure of visiting the city in 2015 and was blown away by the investment in infrastructure which makes it such a liveable location.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch are exhibiting at the Business Travel Show next week - you can register for a free visitor pass now at www.businesstravelshow.com.  

1 – Bridgestreet Global Hospitality survey, 2014
2 – VAT IT, a leading VAT reclaim specialist

Friday 17 February 2017


Shaun Hinds, Managing Director, EMEA & APAC, Bridgestreet is taking part in a panel session at 1000 on Wednesday, 22 February at the Business Travel ShowHow can I get even more out of my accommodation strategy? Register for a free pass now at www.businesstravelshow.com 

Please sum up your conference session in one sentence.
This session explores taking your accommodation programme beyond the boundaries of the traditional hotel.

Why is it a must-attend for travel managers? 
There is more choice than ever in the accommodation space. Travellers are seeking more flexibility and more diversity in their accommodation choices, buyers are looking for ways to make their budgets go further in a climate of high city centre hotel prices and companies are keen to ensure that safety, quality and their duty of care is not compromised by the overwhelming choice. The session will look for opportunities to balance and blend these different objectives           

What is the biggest challenge facing the business travel industry this year and why? 
Security remains a very high priority. While economic and political uncertainty may present business travel opportunities, it can also lead to contraction as plans and projects may become subject to delays.    

And what is the biggest opportunity for travel managers and why?  
Quality and choice continues to grow. Products which may have seemed radical and
marginal a few years ago are becoming mainstream. Independent providers have upped
their game and there are some world class options emerging in the middle-class price

Interrupters/sharing economy suppliers – a help or a hindrance?
Depends on your point of view. One person’s disruptor is another person’s conventional. The reality is the landscape is changing and the disruptors potentially wield more influence than the traditional players. The challenge though is what an employee may see as normal in their holiday leisure time can present companies with dilemmas around accommodation programme integrity

How will Brexit affect your job?

The extended stay sector was built on, among other things, projects as a mainstay of its customer base. Brexit is the biggest project we are likely to see in a generation and so can only be an opportunity – some reports cite up to 30,000 jobs being required to deliver Brexit. The Chief Brexit officers and their teams will need somewhere to stay.   

Why are you looking forward to speaking at/attending the Business Travel Show?
The show is the preeminent corporate travel event in the UK and Europe.  In the year of
tremendous change it’s more relevant and more important than ever

How can we follow you on Twitter? 
@shaunhinds and @bridgestreetapt