Tuesday 14 February 2017

GUEST BLOG: Is there anything more important than traveller wellbeing?

We don’t think so.

Legislation around corporate liability for duty of care negligence coupled with the growing global threat means that companies must have robust policies and procedures in place to mitigate risk for travellers.  At all the business travel conferences last year, one topic prevailed: how to diminish risk for travellers. It’s not surprising when you consider that even traditionally low-risk countries are now on high alert as a result of terrorism.  It means that a business traveller to a major European country or on a domestic trip is just as vulnerable as an oil worker in Nigeria. Terrorist attacks have become indiscriminate. 
Travel management companies need to know where travellers are, they need to be able to communicate with them, and re-arrange travel if necessary.  That was reinforced by the Iceland ash cloud in 2010. Many corporates were sent into panic by not knowing the location of their travellers or the ramifications of closed airspace. 

The first line of defence is an around-the-clock service from your TMC so that help is at hand when travel is disrupted.  A travel tracking system, pinpointing any vulnerable employees in the affected destination, is also a must-have.  International SOS and The Federation of European Risk Management Associations jointly undertook research into European trends in risk management, highlighting that companies seldom implement measures such as traveller tracking and pre-departure training. They only do this in reaction to a serious incident or a “near miss”, but a key strategy should be preventative measures.

A risk management policy should augment any travel policy, covering all eventualities and tackling each of the three stages of any traveller’s journey: pre travel, during travel, and post travel.  This policy must then be clearly communicated to each traveller and signed so the employer has evidence the traveller has read and understood this.

Pre Travel
Any judge contemplating whether there is a case will be looking for an audit trail of checks on risk intelligence shared with employees. This begins with arming your traveller with destination-specific advice.  This includes information such as country profile and risk assessments of the destination; no-go areas; which taxi firm to use from airport to downtown; road safety information; safety for lone travellers; any security advice to maintain confidentiality of company data whilst abroad; vaccinations; and key emergency contact numbers.

This is where a TMC comes into its own – we are the vital connection between the traveller and their organisation; tracking travellers, providing expert destination advice, and proactively mitigate the risk.

During Travel
If any health and safety incident should occur, the traveller should be well aware of the company policy and procedures to follow. The traveller tracking system will isolate any at-risk travellers and send SMS texts to advise of new travel plans and vital safety information.  Corporates can also partner with third parties to provide cover for remote medical assistance and repatriation, which is essential for oil, gas, energy and marine clients.

Post Travel
A debrief is essential to learn from the traveller about their travel experience and make policy revisions if necessary.  It’s important that your crisis management plan is tested regularly and benchmarked against your peers and best practice – it is a dynamic, evolving process. 

An important point to note at each stage is that regular business travellers can become complacent over time.  Organisations must be aware of this and put measures in place to ensure vital safety information is communicated to frequent flyers in an engaging manner, protecting both the traveller and the business.

This post was written by Travel Counsellors, who will be exhibiting at the Business Travel Show next week. Meet them! Register for your free pass at www.businesstravelshow.com 

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