Risk is an inevitable part of any business function, however, as most of us know, there has never been a category with as large a number of uncontrollable and unforeseeable variables as Travel. Uncontrollable variables often equals increased risk. Let us be honest, it’s not easy to look after thousands of travellers that are miles away from us – often making decisions that can have impact they themselves don’t know about. That is why it is so important to take a step back, understand the basics of risk as well as use technology in the best way to manage it.
We may not be able to control the variables in travel, but we can manage them. With more data available than ever before, mitigating and managing risk is becoming easier while the need for improved and immediate access to data becomes ever more important. We need to know what is happening with our travellers now as opposed to what is happening weeks later.
A basic guide to risk management includes creating an all-encompassing policy while implementing the technology, tools and processes to execute it.
The consequences of bad risk management.
According to the Key Travel Insights survey, 30% of travellers felt global incidents and crises impact their sense of security when travelling and, as a result, 40% were travelling less frequently or to different locations. If we want to reap the benefits of business travel, we need to, as the travel community, instill risk policies that take the stress away from travelling – ensuring travellers that there is, indeed, nothing to worry about.
There are two ways we can achieve this: first, we need to implement an effective risk policy covering all areas of potential traveller risk while simultaneously realising it is all about execution.
Creating a risk policy
There are two responsibilities when it comes to risk management – the responsibility for the employer to do all they can to protect the employee, (duty of care) plus the employee’s responsibility to behave in a prudent fashion that will not put themselves at risk (duty of loyalty).
Duty of care
Duty of care mainly refers to having completed the due diligence on every destination to ensure every conceivable threat to safety is covered. As you know, countries are often rated from 1 – low risk all the way to 5 – high risk.
Events like the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight in 2015 have put the notion of air space high on the agenda. This means risk is not just limited to country but needs to include flightpath as well.
Health is an important factor to consider when examining risk. If any traveller is of high risk of needing emergency healthcare this should be reported, notified and the traveller should be informed. Most HR departments request health history and some may require a medical examination, depending on the role. Ensure all employees come with an existing profile.
Access to emergency services is important and, if travellers are in a somewhat remote location, no matter the extent of their cover, getting in a helicopter ambulance or other similar emergency services may be somewhat limited.
Mental health is sometimes overlooked. If travellers are exposed to psychological trauma in the field, it is your responsibility to make sure that all mental health history is recorded before the event and appropriate steps can be taken after the incident. Any trip where a risky event took place should come with a post-trip assessment.
All these considerations need to be kept in front-of-mind in the travel policy and the list of preferred booking channels and suppliers. Airlines that often stop over or fly into dangerous areas, for example, may cause extra risk and travel managers really need to weigh up the value of using these suppliers before introducing them as “preferred”.
Duty of loyalty
This may include a responsibility on the employee to call HR or a contact point if disaster happens and inform the company that they are, indeed, ok. According to the Insights survey, less than 35% of companies have an “I’m ok” policy in place.
Insurance is also an important factor when creating policy. If any accident does happen, travellers need to be made aware of any way in which they can put liability on their company rather than the airline, driver or accommodation supplier. For example, if a traveller offers to drive for a cab driver if he is tired it may be better to have an alert driver, however, the company would be liable if an accident does occur. All insurance policies need to to be explored and relevant details communicated pre-trip.
One way or another, companies need to instill a risk policy where appropriate due diligence has been performed in each flight path, city or destination and supplier. Once the policy is in place, the next challenge is putting it into action.
Maintaining policy through data and technology
Policies are useless if they are not complied with. There are two things that are vital when it comes to risk policy compliance: communication and technology.
Why is communication so important?
In the Insight survey, a third of travellers did not know their travel policy when it came to risk as it had never been communicated to them or they did not know where to find it. Even if they did know it, around 61.7% had not referred to it in a long time.
As a travel manager, I am sure you know that no traveller can follow a policy they are not aware of.
An effective way to ensure that the policy is not only known, but also complied with is by implementing an effective sign-off procedure upon booking travel so travellers are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to risk. Upon booking, we can install alerts via booking tools and/or a TMC where the traveller receives a notification of the risks involved in that particular trip and what they should do on the trip both in normal circumstances or in the case of an emergency.
Why is technology important?
Most travel managers and, indeed, travellers, do not have time for pre-trip briefings on each city they travel to, so technology is key in informing travellers of need-to-know risk and their duty of loyalty before the trip. It’s also instrumental in informing travel managers when a risky booking is made or if any crisis does occur.
Whether your programme uses a mobile booking tool or an agency, each process needs to come with alerts every time a booking is made to an area or with a supplier defined as “risky”
At the back-end, data delivery becomes instrumental. As soon as the booking is made, travel managers need to be handed the data – preferably with a notification or alert if the booking is risky.
The role of the TMC
TMC’s have obligations, often requiring them to complete a full profile of a traveller upon booking a trip. Due to data protection practices, however, this information is often not shared. Creating a link between HR who holds this information and the travel department as well as urging travellers to update their profiles in case of a change is important.
TMC’s also provide 24-hour emergency contact numbers helping travellers and managers resolve local flight and hotel issues immediately. If your TMC does not provide this then make sure it is rectified.
TMCs do have these procedures, however, remember that their data is limited. They may deliver extensive, good quality pre-trip data, however, this data is useless when travellers book out-of-policy through consumer booking tools on the corporate card, for example.
Dealing with out-of-policy behaviour
Even if you make use of all these principles and use ideal suppliers , TMCs and tools including pre-trip alerts, travel managers are still at the hands of the traveller to make the right choice.
Booking through non-preferred booking channels can be disastrous as, if a risky event does occur, travel managers have limited means of finding out where the traveller is and how to fix the situation.
This is where technology can be a real asset. Using data intelligence tools that convey pre-trip data to the travel manager in a real-time environment is essential. If an out-of-policy booking happens, not only must this data be as close to real-time as possible, but it also needs to be complete. TMC data falls short when travellers use consumer booking tools with the company credit card, for example.
Install a data analytics software that is able to combine data from all sources of spend – including TMC, card and expense at a minimum so we can prevent risky events before they happen.
The good news is technology is changing so much and pre-trip data is no exception. We are increasingly finding more ways to communicate risky bookings both to the travel manager, department head and the traveller themselves. We are even exploring the ability to be able to combine additional data sources like flight operational data or data from media wires and serve it up real-time to travel managers and even department heads. This means that, so that, should a crisis occur, the company is in touch before the traveller calls the emergency number.
“Risk management is a continuum,” said Christian Aid’s Corporate Security Manager. “We have to be constantly updating risk and that can be daily, sometimes hourly.”
This seems like a taxing task but, in this day and age, technology should, essentially, be doing the work for you.
If you want to know how you can access TMC, Card and Expense data pre-trip, please get in touch with our travel data experts.