Business travel risks are wide-ranging and fast-changing, from volatile geopolitics, natural disasters and climate change to the pandemic aftermath and protests. For anyone involved in booking travel, evaluating risks can seem overwhelming while staying ahead of the evolving landscape of every location is challenging. And that’s before considering the physical and mental wellbeing of your travellers.
Reed & Mackay Global Operational Director Tony Peckham shares his thoughts on what risk prevention questions should be top of mind for anyone booking corporate travel.
Should organisations operate a company-wide travel risk assessment?
Companies are now having to look far deeper into their travel risk policy, something that really began at the start of the pandemic. A few years ago, travel managers may have had to deal with travel health issues such as malaria or typhoid, but it’s more profound than that now.
Plus it’s been one thing after another in recent years. Travel managers and bookers are still having to continue dealing with major weather disruptions and, if their travellers need to go to more volatile destinations, there’s the risk implications to understand about that too and implement into their travel policies.
Can a TMC help guide clients through risk management?
This is absolutely where a TMC can step in to help, providing essential advice from a centralised point of contact, offering peace of mind pre, during and post trips.
Naturally, if you have a traveller booked on a trip three months in advance, you can’t know what’s going to happening in the world that far in the future but, what a TMC should be doing, is sending out alerts regarding any potential risks, as the time of travel approaches, before it’s heard from any other source. A TMC should know when your travellers are travelling, their itineraries, they’ll have alerts set up on potential weather disruptions and anything that might affect operations at airports.
At Reed & Mackay, that’s delivered via our Incident Management Unit. Our systems link with those at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which means we can access information sooner than the media has a chance to report it. For example, if your travellers are going somewhere the FCDO has deemed difficult to travel to, we’ll send out an alert to remind you about the booking and that it’s essential to check FCDO advice.
What are the key questions travel managers should ask when putting together a travel risk assessment?
The key questions include:
· Do you know where your employees are in the event of an emergency?
· Do the sources of information we rely on identify all external risks in real time?
· Are you able to quickly and effectively respond to any incident that endangers travelling employees?
· Are you able to receive communication from travellers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, should they have any safety, security or health matters?
· Am I confident my TMC has all the correct contact details for all our travellers?
· Does my TMC have the resources to respond to developing incidents in an instant to secure the safety of travellers?
· Does my TMC have the ability to call on a wide range of sources to arrange specialist travel?
What’s important to remember is a TMC isn’t a travel risk management company; specialist partners that assess extreme risks are needed. Always ensure your TMC is working with trusted risk management partners. Here, we work with WorldAware, (part of Crisis24) with International SOS and with Healix, a company that offers a medically trained professional view. Whatever the client is looking for, we have the risk management contacts to recommend our clients partner with.
What advice would you give a company with travellers going to a destination where it doesn’t have a base or an office?
If they’re visiting somewhere that doesn’t have an office and haven’t been to before, do your due diligence, particularly if travellers are going to remote areas, as there’s both the health and safety elements to consider. If the business has people on the ground of where the travellers are going, ensure you ask for their advice.
Nevertheless, if a corporate traveller is going to visit a client in a destination they don’t know much about, it can be difficult to ask their client directly about the risk. That’s where a TMC, and the risk management partners it works with, can guide you.
what additional risk assessments should be in place for SOLO FEMALE BUSINESS TRAVELLERS?
Assessing accommodation solo female travellers will be staying in is particularly important; first and foremost, check the destination of the hotel and its surroundings. Ensuring the safety of solo female travellers should be high up on the agenda. Companies need to do their due diligence and recognise this as part of its duty of care towards its travellers.
And ask your TMC for guidance with risk assessments. For example, if there isn’t a company car to collect you from the airport or between meetings, there are car suppliers we recommend that send the traveller a driver’s photo before they depart, so they know who they’re travelling with. Working with our partners, we can advise if something is suitable for a solo traveller.
Is COVID still a key factor in risk assessment guidance?
Not as much as before, but some clients continue to ask for this. We work with Sherpa, which has fantastic real-time guidance and advice. Our clients can check destination entry requirements by downloading the Reed & Mackay app. You can then link to Sherpa in the R&M Portal, where you’ll find all the latest travel and health restrictions from around the world.