12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
Non-compliance a major worry
As the dust settles after the horrific terrorists attacks in Mumbai last week, ABTN looks at what lessons have been learned in terms of traveller tracking and security.
As the attacks got underway on the railway station and luxury hotels, corporates and travel management companies (TMCs) began a frantic search to see who and how many of their staff and clients were in the Indian city - and more precisely were there any in the Taj Mahal or Oberoi Trident Hotels.
Most TMCs were able to track clients quickly. But all encountered a worrying problem - clients who had booked outside of their company's travel policy could not be traced.
This is the main lesson that has emerged from the incident.
Nigel Turner, industry affairs spokesman for Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), said "Mike Platt in his ABTN Comment piece last week said that TMCs do not shout enough about our value.
"One of the huge values that TMCs bring is that when there is a crisis traveller tracking becomes so much more important."
But he said that it happened "quite a lot with hotels" that travellers went off contract and booked themselves.
Mr Turner said a TMC could go into its data and find out who was where but this did not work if the traveller had gone outside policy.
"Companies talk a lot about compliance. The first thing is the going off contract spend and the second is the traveller going off contract. If they do that, we don't know where they are.
"Companies need to be told about this. They need to be aware what going outside policy means. This is one of the values that we bring."
He said one of the lessons from Mumbai was that what companies need, especially in both the current economic and security climates, is a really strong travel policy.
"A lot of companies do not have this but you need it to bring compliance. It is needed for two reasons: to protect the individual and to protect the organisation. Both these boxes need to be ticked.
"Having a strong policy not only means that a traveller is getting the best fare but it also offers protection for both the organisation and the individual."
Mr Turner stressed that a key factor in having a strong policy which is enforced is that travellers can be traced much more easily.
To get around this problem of outside-policy bookings, TMCs like CWT are now trying to find other ways of sourcing the needed information as part of a constant programme to upgrade traveller tracking systems.
Stewart Harvey, client management director for Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), said he had found two major lessons in the Mumbai incidents: the first was, again, the problems caused by travellers going outside policy and the second was the importance of getting clients' mobile phone numbers.
HRG had, according to its data, about 200 people in Mumbai. But Mr Harvey said there were others there who were not in the reports.
"These are the people who did not comply with their company's travel policy and made their own arrangements," he said.
"We are saying to our clients that their policy must be complied with and the second thing we are saying is that going outside the policy is not saving them money.
"Finally we are saying we can only look after them if we know where they are."
Mr Harvey said that the solution to this is that companies mandate their travel policy which, in the aftermath of Mumbai, some are already doing.
"The firms are telling staff they must book through a TMC and at the same time TMCs must now have the ability to find people.
"That was the biggest single lesson and it is good for us," he said.
He said the compliance level from countries with mature business travel strategies was good. It was from the often smaller countries where business travel management was less developed that compliance was poor.
The second thing to emerge was the often lack of a mobile number for travellers.
Mr Harvey said firms which supplied their travellers with company phones always had the numbers available.
But it was the companies where the travellers used his or her own phone that often failed to get the numbers and therefore could not contact them in an emergency.
"This was another big lesson to come out of the incident," he said.