How To Design And Deploy
An Effective Travel Risk
BY D. BRUCE MCINDOE
President and co-founder
iJet Intelligence Risk Systems
ON ANY GIVEN DAY, business travelers can be faced with a number of incidents that may threaten to jeopardize their trips or their lives.
Inclement weather and schedule changes are common,
but what if an employee arrives in a city where an unexpected natural disaster occurs? Or where repeated
acts of terrorism, civil unrest or violence have marred a
country’s general safety for travelers?
By and large, these events are uncommon, but the
past decade has shown us that they are possible and
can pose a serious risk to
business travel. The terrorist bombings in Mumbai and Jakarta, Haiti’s
volcano eruption and
ensuing ash cloud, the
repeated union protests
in France over pension
reform and the ongoing
in Mexico are just a few
examples of situations
that can influence a business traveler’s success at
accomplishing their intended tasks.
Often it seems that
preparation and planning are futile. The disheartening
fact is that risks associated with travel ultimately can
threaten a business’ bottom line and, in extreme cases,
put employees in life-threatening situations. Therefore,
a comprehensive travel risk management program is
necessary to help mitigate the risks that business travelers and expatriates face abroad and can greatly improve
employees’ safety and security.
What’s more, legal imperatives such as duty and standard of care make it nearly impossible for an organization not to address these issues, as they hold businesses
liable for not doing everything “reasonably practical” to
protect the health and safety of employees, particularly
when so many other organizations of the same size and
ability are doing so.
After the events of 9/11, many companies implemented traveler-tracking solutions either through their
travel management company or by partnering with a
third-party vendor. Many of these solutions were just
retooled pre-trip reporting solutions, which, while useful, did little to actually protect travelers. Rather, they
largely were used after an incident occurs to see who
might be impacted.
Implementing A Travel Risk
Travel risk management is more than just reacting
quickly and efficiently to events as they happen. In fact,
only one component of a comprehensive TRM program is reactive: incident response. And today, most
organizations already have some level of emergency
assistance—typically medical or travel—in place.
The key to developing a sound TRM program is to
understand that it needs
to be actively managed,
particularly in response to
increases in volatility like
we have seen since 9/11 in
Mumbai, Mexico, France,
etc. This means being
proactive in helping your
employees avoid travel
problems. The proactive
components of a well-managed TRM program
are the ones that must
be planned, in place and,
more importantly, practiced before travel begins.
Below is an overview
of the five key components necessary to create a
strong, comprehensive and proactive TRM program.
tematically perform a threat assessment on each
traveler’s itinerary, which includes informing the
traveler of the local laws, culture, and entry/exit
and customs requirements that might pose a risk.
A procedure to quickly and automatically identify higher risk locations should be implemented
and practiced. Additional attention needs to be
paid to these trips with strategies put into place
to mitigate the higher threat environment such
as secure ground transport, careful hotel selection, etc.
Traveler tracking and notification • . The need
for qualified and specific information on a traveler’s location and safety throughout the duration of their trip is paramount. An organization
should incorporate solutions that collect information across multiple travel providers with the
ability to manipulate data, push and pull content,
manually enter trip data, and provide assistance
and real-time notification tools as needed. The
National Business Travel Association’s Travel &
Meetings Risk Management Committee issued
a comprehensive guide for selecting a traveler
tracking and risk management solution in August, which can be downloaded from NBTA’s
Employees need to have someone to contact day or
night for help. In an emergency, whether travel, medical
or security, employees should have an easy-to-use process for seeking assistance. For example, by providing
one global number and/or point of contact to assist the
traveler reduces response failures and traveler frustration. And whether managing this response center internally or using an integrator like iJet to coordinate a
multidisciplinary response from multiple vendors, it is
imperative that an organization be prepared to respond
to a wide range of incidents, including medical evacuations, kidnap situations, civil unrest and workplace
An organization needs to develop the overall TRM
policies, procedures and plan as well as link them to key
organizational plans, including an overall crisis management plan and emergency response plans. The key
here is to plan now so you don’t have to react later.
After any incident, it is important to have an “
after-action review.” Ask yourself: Could you have prevented
the problem in the first place or more efficiently handled the incident? If so, then modify the policies, plans,
procedures or mitigation strategies as required to help
travelers avoid similar situations in the future.
Training encompasses three levels: employee training, professional/advisor training and crisis management team training. Employee training covers all basic
pre-travel knowledge areas, including essential issues
ranging from pre-trip planning to skills on the road.
Professional/advisor training covers the systems and
processes used to implement a TRM program and crisis management team training ensures employees and
management are prepared and knowledgeable on what
is expected of them during an emergency.
Monitoring includes the systems and staff that provide 24/7, real-time monitoring of world events looking
out for potential threats to your travelers. Monitoring
occurs on two levels:
Pre-trip itinerary monitoring and evaluation • .
Monitoring should begin well before an employee leaves the office. An organization needs to sys-
TRM Is A Continuous Process
As the world becomes increasingly complex and businesses continue to expand operations globally, it is the
responsibility of every organization to act proactively
to protect itself and its employees. The improvements
in traveler tracking and monitoring are steps made in
the right direction, however this does not solely constitute a TRM strategy. Traveler tracking is merely one
tool within an overall risk management program. Only
a comprehensive TRM strategy, which plans, trains,
monitors and reacts to unforeseen incidences, will ensure that both the employee and the organization are
Furthermore, developing a comprehensive, proactive
TRM program is not a one-off project. Nor is it something to jump into without careful consideration and
assessment of the organization’s current benchmarks.
It is an ongoing responsibility that should be under
continuous evaluation by identifying weaknesses and
improvement by refocusing time and resources where
needed. By establishing a continuous process, and
training employees to follow it, an organization can significantly mitigate its risk, not just in terms of travel,
but all manners of global risk. ■