Expecting the unexpected: The changing face of travel risk management

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It can sound overwhelming straight off the bat, but risk affects every traveller. Employers and employees need to be proactive, plan for an expanded range of risk scenarios and be agile enough to react almost immediately. When managed in-house, it can be an exhausting exercise for organisations that don’t have the right support around them.

But with Travel Management Companies (TMCs), organisations don’t need in-house teams and you aren’t starting from zero. Just as the risks associated with connecting have changed, the way we manage them is evolving too. But we’ve been planning for, finding solutions and navigating risks since the first booking was made and we aren’t about to stop now.

The numbers are plain to see, people are connecting again and business travel is on its way back, so it’s critical that organisations have risk management capabilities at their fingertips – particularly with the way risks change. Brilliant mitigating solutions were continuously deployed to meet the risks of Covid, but risk doesn’t stop there and travel managers must expect the unexpected beyond it.

What is travel risk now?

Travel-related risk has shifted from on-trip to pre-trip. Pre-Covid, risk centred on a traveller visiting an unfamiliar destination or region. This meant arriving travellers were unsure whether to catch a cab or walk to the hotel.

 

Now, we see a big interest in mental health and wellbeing, but physical health, which wasn’t so historically critical, deserves equal focus. In reality, this might include anything from asthma, to whether an employee is recovering from an operation. Pre-trip evaluation means organisations are asking if travellers are fit to travel in the first place.

Dual-level risk

Travel has inherent risks on two levels:

  1. The risk to the employer.
  2. The risk and inconvenience to the individual traveller.

The former manifests in absenteeism, lost productivity and damaged brand reputation. The latter by pre-existing health conditions, overall physical and mental wellbeing, family and peer pressure. It’s fair to say that employers have never been more mindful of the need to protect their employees’ physical and mental health.

But the risk of inconvenience can’t be ignored either. Travellers are interested in practicalities like whether to allow another hour to get through airport security or if a lateral flow test is needed before staying at a certain hotel. It’s this type of information that needs to be incorporated into travellers’ itineraries, thereby introducing the management of the inconvenience risk to mitigate the impact on the travellers’ ability to fulfil their role. Travellers also need to know they are supported by their employer when travelling and by their TMC via 24/7 support and real-time travel information.

Travel Risk Assessments

The International Standard Organisation’s ISO 31030 (Risk Travel Management – Guidance for Organization) is there to assist travel managers and travellers alike.

Mandated Travel Risk Assessments could offer a hand in identifying the emerging threats employees may face during a trip. A well-executed and communicated Travel Risk Assessment ensures travellers know what to do in case of critical situations, are aware of potential threats and can implement mitigating actions.

An organisation’s responsibility to exercise duty of care to their employees should underpin every travel policy and programme. Employers have legal and ethical obligations to ensure that when their people are on the move, they’re safe and there’s a plan in place when risks emerge.

Travel Risk Management is fundamental to business continuity and organisational resilience because it shows duty of care is more than just a tick-box exercise, it’s taken seriously. Having a toolkit that reliably supports Travel Managers is really important here:

  • Traveller location – understanding where your team are should a trigger event occur.
  • Reliable information sources and comms to keep travellers in the loop before and while travelling.
  • Regular technology improvements to counter new and existing risks.
  • 24-hour support whenever and wherever travellers are.
  • Informed, effective policy

Risk exists whenever employees are on the move, so employers need to know where their people are to be able to support them when there’s a problem. It’s not necessary to stop people from travelling, but instead, to highlight a risk or to give them solid advice that will help mitigate the risks. Taking this consultative approach empowers travellers and gives both parties more responsibility.

Increased demand for more in-depth information about travel risk means that information must be validated. Some travellers will look to TripAdvisor or social media for that validation, but it is our role as a TMC to guarantee authenticity.

Acting fast is essential when bookers need support like this. By providing up-to-the-minute information through channels like; 24-hour support services, travel alert emails, traveller tracking technology, online hubs of information and a content-rich travel portal, organisations and travellers can be emboldened by information and communicated with in a crisis.

It’s not just about putting measures in place but making them relevant, accessible and visible to travellers in response to legitimate and present risks. If measures are deployed at the wrong time, in the wrong way or not communicated effectively, this isn’t effective in helping to manage risk.

What next?

You cannot avoid every risk, but it can be mitigated. Businesses must be prepared for risk to be variable, and it is critical for travel managers to engage with their travellers; listen to them, find the best way to engage and communicate with them, not just when things go wrong but long before they do.

Timing is crucial and we take steps at the right time to offer effective responses. So don’t hesitate, get in touch with Agiito.

You might also find Agiito CCO’s 5 tips for traveller wellbeing

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  • AUTHOR

    Marja Toseland

    All stories by: Marja Toseland