All of us are mourning the events of this past weekend in Paris. It’s a terrible, painful tragedy and our hearts go out to everyone affected by this incredible act of terrorism.
Unfortunately, the frequency of such events is not decreasing, and threats will continue. Dangerous situations will occur in your home nation and while travelling abroad. Incidents such as these pose unique challenges for those of us in the travel management industry. I’ve written about travel risk mitigation and how to manage travel disruptions and thought it would be timely to talk again about how businesses can handle situations such as this. How do you communicate to your employees about what to do when threats are imminent?
Review your travel policy
This is the first and most important step in the process. Travel policies should include recommended policies and procedures regarding the safety of all employees who travel. Have the appropriate partners been secured to keep employees and the company safe and protected? Is technology available and being used to predict the potential for threats? Have we gathered a list of best practices when it comes to managing seemingly uncontrollable situations?
In addition to instructions on how and when to book a sedan service, your travel policy should address emergency communication procedures such as checking in with a risk mitigation company, what to do in case of a weather emergency, where to get health-related answers, or what to do in case of a terrorist act. Pre-planning your trip and addressing questions like this is vital for the health and safety of your travelers.
Additional information about what to include in your travel policy regarding risk mitigation can be found in our Travel and Expense Policy Workbook. This document provides questions and suggestions that encompass all areas relating to emergency communication procedures for travelers. It’s imperative for the safety of your employees, and the continued success of your business to address and develop solutions in the event of a travel emergency.
Communicate your policy with your travelers
Once your travel policy is updated, focus on communicating these procedures to your employees. Ask them to read and understand the policy, examine questions and discuss possible scenarios. If needed, take the opportunity to ask for outside council – from your travel management company or a risk mitigation specialist – on best practices, highlighting practical solutions for potential travel emergencies. In addition to providing invaluable information, this also communicates to your travelers that their safety is of great concern to your organization.
The last thing anyone wants to receive is a phone call from your road warrior stating that they have been affected by an unforeseen challenge in their travel plan. Within our offices, we kept abreast of the situation in Paris all of Friday and Saturday and made a point to reach out to our clients who travel to France. This level of service provided a sense of relief for our clients and our staff, and we were thankful to know that everyone we spoke with was safe.
Is this something that your business has the ability to do? Does your travel manager or TMC have the ability to communicate with employees when in a situation such as this? According to a Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Control Risks Group study, 54% of travelers surveyed carry no specific contact number for use in a crisis abroad. If your travelers don’t have the ability to contact you if they are in trouble, how would you know?
There are two processes that should be in place to help with this possible scenario.
- The inclusion of risk mitigation services within your travel program to assist in threat prediction and communication. Risk mitigation companies have experts in all areas of the world - on the ground - that can help to determine if it’s safe to be in a specific location. Is it safe to travel to Europe? The Middle East? Parts of Asia? These professionals are able to assess available data and predict if a potential traveler to this area will be affected. More importantly, your travelers can check in with a risk mitigation company and allow them to assist with safe travel while in a potentially unsafe area.
- Secondly, it is imperative that your travelers book within your managed system via the online booking tool setup by your TMC or by calling the agents directly. This will ensure that flight information, car rental location and hotel booking details are in the system and information of each employee’s trip are accesible to your TMC. This allows for almost instant contact with travelers and immediate access to make adjustments to their travel plans in the case of an emergency.
This is true for all areas where your employees travel – not just in locations where there is a perceived threat. For example, one of your travelers books their flight and car rental through your online booking tool, but chooses to secure a hotel room on their own, earning personal reward points. Their hotel information is not included in your travel management system. While traveling, an earthquake occurs and news reports are stating that a number of hotels have crumbled because of this unpredictable act of nature. Is your traveler staying at the affected hotel? How do you know if they are safe in this situation? If their information is included in one online booking system, your travel manager has the ability to immediately communicate with that employee and assess their safety.
Technology provides useful resources for trip itinerary management that allow for mobile trip itinerary access. There are travel apps that allow for all travel data to be included in one location and the ability for your traveler to email the itinerary. This helps your travel manager, and is especially helpful for families who are interested in where their loved ones are going.
These are tough topics to discuss – especially in the wake of such tragic events. At the same time, it is paramount that your business addresses these issues with your road warriors, and communicates the importance of their safety while traveling. If you’re still experiencing travel anarchy, assessing and managing risk can be a tremendous challenge, but again, these situations must be talked about. If not, the lives of your employees and the health of your business can be affected.
We are here to help – if you’re interested in learning more about developing a travel policy for your organization, or need to update your current policy, please download our Travel and Expense Policy Workbook for additional information.