Organizations cannot engage in business travel without taking on the additional risks that are inherent to sending employees abroad. Whether you are sending a sales team on the road to drum up business or your vice president is flying overseas to speak at a conference, things like flight delays, service interruptions and even political and social unrest can create personal risks for your travelers and financial and liability risks for your organization.
Organizations should establish and maintain travel risk management (TRM) programs to address the risks associated with business travel. A TRM program is a set of policies and procedures that work together to reduce the overall risk of business travel, helping to reduce the company's exposure to liability and financial risk and protecting the safety of traveling employees. Components of the program might include:
Corporate travel policy - the main purpose of a corporate travel policy is to achieve cost reductions by standardizing the process for booking travel itineraries, but a corporate travel policy can also play a role in risk management. In addition to standard booking procedures, travel policies should include safety and security standards - specific instructions for employees on how to manage risk in situations they might commonly encounter while traveling.
Many of the restrictions in your corporate travel policy will be purposely-written to help manage risk. You may require that employees only book hotels at reputable locations, reducing the risk that your employees will be scammed or have their articles stolen.
Travel assistance service - corporations can have a huge impact on the safety of their travelers by contracting with a well-known worldwide travel assistance firm. Deem's corporate travel booking platform offers integration with FocusPoint Crisis Assistance Plus, a firm that combines travel planning, tracking and physical response with the impressive capability to evacuate travelers and their family members from high-risk and remote locations in 125 countries.
In addition to emergency support and evacuations, contracting a travel assistance company gives your traveling employees access to a 24/7 customer service line where they can obtain information about travel alerts and advisories, access additional advice and assistance and coordinate immediate worldwide assistance in the event of a crisis.
Global travel and health insurance - what happens if an employee becomes sick or injured while traveling abroad? What if they need treatment right away and there isn't enough time to bring them home? Corporations that engage in business travel require specialized travel insurance that protects employees while they travel abroad, ensuring that they can obtain medical treatment anywhere in the world.
Travel insurance also covers things like lost luggage and missed connections that can impact itineraries and result in lost productivity.
Corporate travel safety and security training- even the most robust framework for travel risk management will fail if organizations fail to promote awareness, utilization, and compliance of the policies and their connected services. Therefore, an often overlooked aspect of TRM is education - arming traveling associates with the knowledge and information they need to take advantage of the resources provided to them. Useful training topics for employees can include:
Protecting personal and company property while traveling
Securing company data while traveling
Procedures for emergency or medical evacuations
Booking procedures for airfares, hotels, ground transportation, etc.
Avoiding common health hazards while traveling abroad
Increasing Business Travel Creates Additional Risk
The global market for business travel saw relatively paltry growth numbers in the years following the economic crisis of 2008, but the most recent available data is suggesting that a full recovery for the sector is in the works.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) recently predicted that after a 5.8% spending increase in global travel in 2016, and an even bigger 7.1% increase in 2017, business travel spending would total $1.7 trillion worldwide by 2022. Compare that figure to the $634 billion spent in 2000 and you'll understand why the need to manage risk is greater than ever before.
The growth in business travel reflects the truth that we live in an increasingly globalized world - travel costs are generally trending downward and technological innovation is continuously removing barriers that previously limited the capacity of organizations to expand globally.
As the overall volume of global business travel increases, along with the diversity of destinations, individual businesses will have to cope with a greater volume of risks. Things like infectious disease outbreaks can present a real risk to employees traveling to exotic or tropical destinations, along with natural disasters, unexpected weather events, and even social or political unrest.
Businesses Face Liability Issues, Including Duty of Care
When we talk about duty of care, we're talking about the moral and legal responsibility that a corporation has to take care of its employees. While the moral component should be obvious - it would be wrong to send our employees into a potentially dangerous situation without giving them the tools, training and resources to protect themselves - the legal component of duty of care is less cut-and-dry.
For starters, duty of care depends on where your business is located. In Australia, due to a series of established court precedents, corporations have a legal duty of care to ensure that their employees are safe while traveling or working abroad. The duty of care here can even be applied when the employee is injured during non-work hours.
In the United Kingdom, duty of care for traveling employees is covered by the Manslaughter Act. Under the Act, a company can be charged criminally if an injury sustained by an employee in a foreign country can be linked to breached duty of care.
In the United States, legislators have not formally recognized a duty of care, so there is no statute that requires corporations to protect employees traveling abroad. Still, an employee injured abroad may be able to sue their employer for negligence or personal injuries, so it's important that employers can demonstrate that they took steps to protect the employee.
Keep Track of Employees in a Crisis
Unpredictable events can have a massively disruptive effect on corporate travel plans, and in some cases endanger the lives of our traveling associates. Consider what happened in 2010 when an Icelandic volcano erupted and left a massive ash cloud that disrupted international travel for nearly a week - more than 100,000 flights were canceled and millions of travelers were left stranded and needing to reschedule their itineraries. The same thing happened in Bali in 2017, as Mt. Agung erupted for five days consecutively and grounded all planes, stranding thousands of passengers.
A travel risk management plan should include policies and procedures for employees caught in a crisis, including procedures for checking in and verifying their safety and location when an unpredictable event like an earthquake, volcanic eruption or tsunami affects their travel plans. Organizations should establish standardized procedures for employees to follow, ensuring that there are fail-safes in place to keep in contact with the employee, even when phone lines and other forms of communications might be unavailable.
Travel Risk Management Programs Make a Difference
Effective travel risk management programs are multi-faceted. They include a corporate travel policy that promotes the safety and security of travelers, travel assistance services, global travel and health insurance with coverage for medical and emergency evacuations and a strong training component to ensure that employees effectively utilize the provided tools.
Corporations need travel risk management to ensure that they can communicate with employees in case of a crisis, to fulfill their legal and moral duty of care obligations and to address the increasing scope of risks that accompanies the current rise in business travel.