Many travelers, especial those traveling abroad, are exposed to dangerous risks to their safety and well-being. Hardly a year goes by without hearing about a natural disaster, public unrest, act of terrorism, or outbreak of an infectious disease – all of which directly impact travelers.
2016 was an especially tumultuous year when terrorists struck targets throughout Europe, in areas that had previously been considered safe. In December of 2016, 12 people were killed and 56 injured at a Christmas market in Berlin. Airports in Brussels and Turkey were the site of deadly bombings. An explosion at a check-in-area of Shanghai's main international airport injured four people. In the first week of 2017, a mass shooting at a Fort Lauderdale airport left five people dead.
In a recent study conducted by the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association in partnership with AIG Travel, an overwhelming majority of employers ranked traveler safety as a major concern. The report is based on an online survey of 167 travel managers in the U.S. and Canada. The study reported that 95 percent of travel professionals feel that providing insurance or assistance services to employees is valuable for international trips; and 76 percent agreed both are valuable for domestic trips as well.
Yet, per the same study, only 41 percent of employers offer risk management training and 26 percent offer GPS tracking of travelers. Those numbers are expected to expand quickly in 2017.
Duty of Care and Risk Mitigation in 2017
Travel managers should never allow business travelers to leave for a trip without knowing exactly who to call and what to do in the event of a disaster. With less than half (41%) having proper risk management policies and procedures in place, companies are exposing themselves to duty of care violations, non-compliance issues and leave their travelers vulnerable and at risk .
One of the most important changes expected to take place in the travel industry regarding the safety of travelers is the provision of improved urgent travel support vis-à-vis an integrated global security solution that allows travelers to be located quickly during a crisis. Travel managers want the ability to pinpoint travelers’ whereabouts by country, flight and even hotel so that they send informed and targeted communications to the affected travelers at a moment’s notice. One of the best ways to accomplish that is through active traveler tracking.
As mobile devices continue to play a large role in business travel planning, more streamlined ways of communication between traveler and travel manager continue to evolve. One-touch check-in (for travelers to signal that they are safe) as well as near real-time tracking through GPS, are technology offerings that quickly growing in popularity.
Traveler Tracking in 2017
Some major travel tracking add-ons and improvements will be available in the first quarter of 2017, with more expected throughout the year. We will discuss two major traveler tracking options: Concur and ISOS.
Since 2015, Concur Messaging has provided traveler locations based on data from five sources:
- Global distribution system passenger name records
- Direct supplier reservations captured by Concur's TripIt itinerary tool
- Direct supplier reservations captured by its TripLink open booking data-capture product
- Concur Request pre-trip approval tool
- Mobile check-ins
In the first quarter of 2017, Concur plans to add location data feeds to its Concur Messaging risk management tool. This will allow employers to track travelers from the spending trails they leave during trips – from credit card transactions and expense receipts. The new feature offers more accurate traveler locating services and will integrate into their current risk management tool, Concur Messaging.
Concur SVP for Travel Product Strategy, Doug Anderson, said the data feed will be better than traditional GPS and GDS tracking solutions. While GDS shows only where travelers are booked (rather than where they actually are) and real-time 24-hour GPS tracking can feel invasive, Concur’s new tool will easily show traveler location without travelers feeling like they are being watched.
Concur said that the upgraded tool will comply with privacy laws across markets and will be rolled out globally this year. The ability for corporate clients to “opt-in” will be provided.
In December 2016, International SOS and Control Risks launched TravelTracker 7, the latest version of their traveler tracking and risk mitigation solution. TravelTracker 7 advances the communication capabilities between travelers and their company in times of crisis via email, SMS and text-to-speech. Administrators can send one-way broadcasts to travelers with confirmation of receipt or send two-way messages with travelers.
Other updates include an improved interface with interactive maps that allow administrators to add points of interest (such as company buildings and preferred hotels) and quickly identify any security, medical or risk ratings for current traveler locations. In addition, they have added smartphone and tablet access to the TravelTracker dashboard with a compliance status indicator to show travelers' compliance with corporate travel policy.
Get Traveler Tracking Buy-In from Executives
Getting buy-in from corporate executives for traveler tracking may have been challenging in the past, but with the increased risk and dangers associated with travel, duty of care has taken a front seat with many travel managers and executives. Some ways to encourage corporate buy-in for traveler tracking include:
- Promote an understanding of duty of care and meet with top stakeholders
- Investigate and enhance procedures
- Inform and explain new policies to travelers
- Evaluate potential threats before booking travel
- Employ a crisis communication process and other risk management tactics
- Confirm that suppliers support your crisis plan
Improving duty of care will be an important priority in 2017 for companies that have not already integrated it into current travel policies and processes. Corporations that have previously addressed risk management may need to assess new technologies, including traveler tracking options, to improve traveler safety during these turbulent times.