November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Catherine Chetwynd investigates the industry’s increased emphasis on traveller safety – and a project designed to support travel professionals
Hurricanes and eruptions. Growing political unrest. A world where trade with far-flung countries becomes increasingly important. This all creates a heady mix where traveller security is climbing up the agenda. And it's not just big business that needs to stay safe.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has around 2,000 employees, of whom up to 1,200 may travel. The charity works with TMC Inntel, using its traveller tracking tool i-Care to keep in touch with employees on the move. Chris Day is strategic procurement manager for RNIB. He mandates use of Inntel as far as possible and works with staff to explain the benefits, such as the management information gathered.
“We encourage travellers to use the TMC because they have traveller tracking and a disaster recovery system in place,” he says. “I-Care shows us when travellers went and when they are returning, and it allows us to go online at any time to see where they are – and Inntel has access to their details, so if anything happens, they can contact travellers directly to put in place appropriate alternative arrangements, without having to come to us.”
Inntel reports directly to the RNIB disaster committee. Day says having systems in place in advance of need proved invaluable in taking care of two travellers when Hurricane Sandy hit the US.
Traveller tracking underpins any duty-of-care programme, and both corporates and TMCs agree policy compliance is the key to this.
Severnside Consulting director Chris Pouney advises travel managers to use sample testing to measure how much leakage their programme suffers.
“Run a report on who is supposed to be in Washington today and phone ten of them to ask where they are,” he says. “Or take 20 expenses claims and check whether they booked through the agency. Testing small numbers is an indication what is happening on a larger scale.”
Those working in sectors such as construction, energy and shipping have people in high-risk locations all the time, so having a programme that allows them to respond to an emergency on a handbrake turn is part of their culture. Now other companies are starting to realise they need to look at it, whether they have one traveller or 100 going to these places.
Many TMCs work with emergency services such as International SOS (ISOS) and Control Risks, and their clients often have security departments that also use these organisations.
Many of TMG Corporate’s clients are travelling in high-risk areas, including Africa and Afghanistan, where director Ian Currington says “staff and travellers are very well drilled in what they should and should not be doing when they are working in a compound”.
TMG uses Sabre Traveler Security software for traveller tracking. “There's also a mobile phone app, but travellers are not always keen on it, and you're reliant on the traveller charging their mobile and switching the tracking on – they can conveniently forget,” says Currington. Most importantly: “It is a three-way relationship – company, TMC and traveller – and they should be working together to stay in touch.”
ATP Instone (ATPI) has a team that monitors newswires to ensure the company is up-to-date on incidents and runs a system that brings all bookings, made at any ATPI office worldwide, into one database, centralising communication with travellers.
Severnside’s Pouney says the difficulty in risk management lies in the diversity of potential incidents. “When I was at Citigroup, we catered for one plane crash in one place. But the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami happened in multiple countries,” he says.
He recommends table-top testing, where companies roleplay scenarios to work out what is required in a variety of events. This can usefully be done in conjunction with a specialist security service. And given that travel departments often have strapped budgets and security departments largely don’t, the two can work closely to good effect. Pouney says: “With a robust system, an incident is an opportunity for the travel department to shine.”
CASE STUDY OF A CRISISWhat happens when a TMC has to deal with the unexpected?
As Algeria entered a state of high alert following terrorist attacks in January 2013, ATP Instone was prepared for action.
One of the world’s leading oilfield service companies had requested the TMC’s assistance when it faced having to evacuate staff from Algeria due to the increased security risk.
Within one hour of receiving the initial call, the TMC had established a disaster recovery team. Two senior employees were deployed to Gatwick to handle incoming private charters from Algeria. Dedicated phone lines were set up to handle the emergency, and a dedicated client account manager was appointed to streamline administration.
There was an added complication in that some of the employees who were evacuated were also foreign nationals with no legal right to ‘land’ in the UK. ATPI worked with immigration officials to collate the correct documentation for onward travel. The two staff remained at Gatwick until the last employee boarded his onward flight.
“When it comes to duty-of-care of workers overseas and mitigation of risk, ATPI has the experience, infrastructure and technology to support travellers fully, in any situation worldwide,” says ATPI global head of energy and shipping sales, Pieter Rieder.After the event, the client commented: “The ATPI team has been beyond excellent. I am very grateful for their input during the whole process.”
ITM Phoenix arose out of the ashes of the erupting Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, which brought air travel in Europe and much of the rest of the world to a standstill in 2010. This unprecedented situation was exacerbated by the lack of consistent information.
“Travel managers were getting confused messages: British Airways was telling customers a flight was taking off, while the TMC was saying BA was grounded,” says ITM’s CEO Simone Buckley.
Phoenix was created by ITM and Advantage Business Travel Centres to provide co-ordination between travel managers, intermediaries and travellers with constantly updated travel news. The Advantage consortium built the site. “Many companies had people stranded in the same location, so in Phoenix, we provided one place to go, so that everyone could distribute information through that point and see it live on the website,” says Buckley. “They can communicate in chat rooms and work collaboratively through that.”
Proof positive came in the form of one travel manager who had chartered a flight out of Egypt and had some spare seats, so he announced it on the ‘share zone’ of Phoenix. The website also has a ‘knowledge centre’, which contains white papers and other sources of information; and ‘service disruption’, which shows information fed by suppliers who send notifications to a dedicated email address, and this is automatically posted to the site.
“It is fast, timely updating of information to help travel professionals make decisions,” says corporate relationship manager for Advantage, Sonia Michaels.
Now, Phoenix is about to enter its second incarnation in partnership with International SOS (ISOS). It will retain its original role but will offer more. “At the moment, Phoenix only really comes to life at the time of an incident, but we have got closer to members and understand their need for education about a holistic approach to risk management,” says Buckley.
“People think that if they have traveller tracking and know where people are, they have got that ticked – but it’s broader than that, and requires more involvement, from the risk department to the travel manager. We need to keep it at the forefront of their minds.” She says the enhanced Phoenix will be a greater hub for information and education. “ISOS has volunteered to fund it and provide resources through the Phoenix website,” she adds.
The functionality of the site is to be ramped up several notches and will host videos and webinars delivered by ISOS health and safety officers, including crisis planning backed by live scenarios, a level of information and education that is generally not available to travel managers.
“We will have a really strong on-the-day service with updates pushing through live, as well as an authoritative preparation and education centre,” says Advantage’s Michaels. “It’s going to be such a valuable and powerful tool for all travel professionals.”
As part of its commitment to providing duty-of-care education for the Phoenix project, ISOS will provide exclusive content for the website’s knowledge centre (see box, right). This will be an important value-add to ITM membership, says director of global travel partnerships for ISOS, Wendy Stachowiak.
“Travel buyers are under increasing pressure to maintain knowledge of the health and travel security risks that may affect their travellers. The knowledge centre is dedicated to educating them.”
However, Phoenix is not there to provide protection, so if an organisation needs to take action, it will still have to buy the service direct from a disaster recovery company or to approach their TMC, most of whom have relationships with these organisations. “We are not competing with TMCs,” says Buckley.
Phoenix used to be only available to ITM members, but during the 2012 Olympic Games, when ITM partnered with Cross-sector Safety and Security Communications (CSSC), the public private service set up to provide the latest information about disruptions surrounding the Games, it was opened to all, provided they registered, and that will continue. CSSC is now preparing for the Commonwealth Games and will distribute similarly apposite information to Phoenix.
ADDING VALUEWhat ISOS will bring to the Phoenix website: