Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
Bob Papworth reports from the Corporate Travel and Expense Management Forum
Companies are going to have to teach their travelling staff about business trip risks to avoid falling foul of new corporate manslaughter legislation, according to a top travel security expert.
Hannah Kitt, associate director of travel security with Control Risks, says pre-trip education – covering general safety tips as well as destination-specific warnings – could help companies avoid ruinous litigation in the event of a tragedy.
Ms Kitt was speaking at the 12th Corporate Travel and Expense Management Forum, organised by Management Solutions (UK) in partnership with ACTE.
More than 70 delegates from blue chips ranging from Mastercard and the Prudential to Unilever and Shell attened the one day event ion London.
Although the precise terms and timing of the new legislation have not yet been finalised, it is expected that the Corporate Manslaughter Bill currently working its way through various House of Commons committees will become law later this year.
And Ms Kitt and her conference co-panellists, Kate Wheadon, strategic security consultant to engineering giant Arup and Tony McGetrick, Expedia Corporate Travel's director of sales and marketing for Europe, warned that employers should be preparing now.
"I think we will see a rise in demand for e-learning,” said Ms Kitt. "Travellers need to now how to mitigate risk.
"We need to focus on how we can enable people to feel more comfortable about going to certain places.”
Ms Wheadon went further. "It's not just a case of letting the traveller know," she insisted. "The HR people and those who actually booking the travel need to know as well.
"There is a real need within corporations to make sure that all the people who are involved have the information."
Mr McGetrick pointed out there are also implications for travel management companies.
Expedia has just received an RFP which included, for the first time, questions about ISO27001 security certification.
"From a TMC's point of view, we expect to see much tighter controls on how we deal with security matters," he said.
"I think we are going to be expected to provide far more information on risk assessment, to be built into clients' travel policies."
The price of switching to procurement
Companies which have dispensed with travel managers and handed the travel purchasing function to non-specialist procurement departments are beginning to see the error of their ways, according to Carlson Wagonlit.
"The day of the travel is coming back – corporates are realising that they simply have to have someone focused on travel."
During a wide-ranging discussion on cost-containment strategies, Ms Smith also said that non-specialists often did not fully appreciate the role of the travel management company.
"The issue that we face as TMCs is about our fees, and not the basic cost of travel. The biggest spend that most organisations have is the cost of the tickets, not how much they are paying for our expertise, and yet that's often the first question we face."
The CWT director of sales found an ally in Richard Boardman, managing director of Reed & Mackay, who stressed that "service is all about driving value for customers" and not necessarily about cutting costs.
"The companies we look after tend to have a number of exceptionally high-performing individuals who require a high-touch service," he said.
"Part of that high-touch service, however, is making sure that we contain costs on behalf of the client company."
There was also criticism of companies which, having dispensed with their travel managers, then failed to make use of even the most basic management information.
"Cost-containment is about getting clever about the way you look at data," said Dominic O'Regan, European pre-sales manager for Concur Technologies.
"The technology already exists to allow companies to collect the information – whether they then look at it is a different matter entirely."
Peter Dennis, director of e-commerce development for hotel booking agency and event management specialist BSI, said: "Historically, we had real travel managers whose remit was simply travel, and those people are being superseded by procurement people who have a much wider remit."
Ms Smith remained adamant that travel managers were sorely missed.
"What staggers me is when a company comes out and asks you to bid, and you ask them for data, and they don't have any. I cannot believe this is still happening – but it is!"